Investing a little extra time in simple research ahead of this season’s bull and ram sales will pay dividends in improving breeding stock-buying decisions, suggests EBLEX. Especially so with the increasing availability of well-displayed internet information to complement sale catalogue entries.
Most sale catalogues show Estimated Breeding Values for each recorded entry and there is a wealth of additional bull and ram EBV information on the internet, with increasingly easy-to-use search facilities through BASCO (via www.signetfbc.co.uk) and Breedplan (via individual breed society websites).
These data allow producers to rapidly and reliably assess the genetic strengths and weaknesses of the breeding stock available against their own farm priorities – growth rates, carcase attributes, ease of birth or maternal traits – so they can draw up a shortlist of the best candidates for their attention at the sales. They can also check on these individuals’ parentage to ensure they avoid stock too closely-related to their own.
The quickest and easiest way to review breeding value at this time of particularly rapid beef and sheep genetic gain is by using the bar chart information provided on the best websites. This gives an immediate visual representation of the merit of individuals for the whole range of characteristics recorded against the current average for the rest of the breed.
Internet information is extremely valuable in cross-checking the completeness as well as accuracy of EBV information in sales catalogues.
While it is always advisable to buy recorded stock, the internet can also be useful in getting some indication of the genetic value of unrecorded individuals through parental EBVs. When looking at parental data, however, it is vital to take particular account of the accuracy values for each EBV to establish how much information is behind the record.
Producers should, of course, never buy animals on their paperwork alone other than from sources they know and trust. As well as teeth, testicles, feet and overall locomotion, it is important to establish the health status of the vendor’s farm. It is also well worth finding out about how the animals have been managed pre-sale so they can be adapted to their new working life as effectively as possible.
In addition to an excellent discipline to guard against ill-judged impulse purchases, short-listing stock ahead of this season’s sales using all the genetic information available will be invaluable in giving buyers the greatest amount of time to inspect bulls and rams for physical correctness, health status and management on the day. Particularly useful at a big sale, this should do much to ensure breeding stock that have long and productive working lives as well as the required genetics.
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