Breeding values to be highlighted in bull selection process

Workshops in Scotland have been designed to help beef producers choose the most efficient and profitable breeding lines in cattle. 

The Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) programmes will also help producers pick the correct bull for their herd by including estimated breeding values (EBVs) in the selection process.

“With tighter abattoir specification becoming more widespread, it is especially important for farmers to select bulls that complement their cows in order to ensure they produce cattle to suit their chosen market,” said Gavin Hill, beef specialist at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), who will also be speaking at the meetings.

“Some producers are also moving towards more maternal cow types in order to have a cow well suited to her farm environment,” he continued.

“They are combining this with looking to achieve increased fat cover, good fertility and good longevity and it is important to bear this in mind when selecting a bull.”

Despite this, Hill warned that this strategy ought to be taken with caution to achieve the correct balance. Some abattoirs have reported heifers being slaughtered with too much fat cover and this results in penalties for the finisher. However, he said that a correct feeding strategy can help overcome this issue.

“The EBV for fat cover has become more important,” he commented. “Previously, recorded breeding bulls have been rewarded for leanness. However, this has led to cattle reaching very heavy weights with little fat cover being laid down. This is no longer in such demand by finishers following the cap on finished weight being demanded by processors.”

Hill noted that producers are not able to suddenly change overnight, and breeding decisions that are made now will not produce results for some time. “With this in mind, specifications such as weight limits must be consistent to allow producers to make informed decisions when purchasing bulls.”

Hill observed that EBVs serve as an efficient tool to utilise when purchasing bulls, but they cannot tell you how a bull was reared or how it has been fed.

Before EBVs are used, a visual assessment on the bull should be carried out to pick up on areas that EBVs are unable to detect. This includes character, shape, conformation, legs and feet.

The EBVs recognise the difference between an individual animal and the breed benchmark to which an animal is being compared.

The workshops are also set to include an explanation of the Health Cards, covering Johne’s disease and bovine virus diarrhoea (BVD) available at the bull sales.

Meetings will be held at Lanark Agricultural Centre, Lanark, ML11 9AX on Wednesday 27 January and Woodlands House Hotel, Dumfries, DG2 0HZ on Thursday 28 January. Both meetings begin at 11am with lunch provided. For more information and details on how to register visit

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