Importance of livestock genetics showcased

The importance of genetic improvement in livestock has been highlighted at an event hosted by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC). 

Genetic experts explained to delegates how a number of considerations and practical measures can influence and improve the genetics of cattle and sheep to improve profitability.

Genetic improvement plays a vital role in increasing the sustainability of a business and can benefit cost effectiveness of beef and sheep production. To drive this message home, three speakers discussed the practical aspects of achieving this.

The seminar, held at NPTC Group’s Newtown Campus, was part of HCC’s ON-Farm 2016 initiative, designed to develop, show and share HCC’s work within the red meat sector of Wales.

“HCC supports a wide variety of research projects covering sheep, cattle and grassland, and the purpose of the latest events in Newtown was to share some of the latest research findings and best practice for farmers,” said Gwawr Parry of HCC.

“The speakers covered a range of research topics, all related to genetic improvement of beef and sheep. With tupping time upon us, it was timely that ram fertility was also on the agenda.”

During the conference, local vet Oliver Hodgkinson of Trefaldwyn Vets highlighted a series of practical steps that should be carried out before rams are turned out to the ewes to achieve better results. Among the techniques listed, include considering the condition score of a ram, checking the size of testicles, monitoring the rams’ libido, ensuring the correct ratio of ewes per ram is accurate and establishing a timeline so that poor performing rams can be identified.

According to Dr Kirsty Moore, from Scotland’s Rural College, the value of genetic improvement to the beef industry is £4.9 million a year. Moore carried out research in this area by looking at the production of estimated breeding values for carcase traits using British Cattle Movement Service and abattoir data. Carcase traits included weight of the body and conformation and fat. Moore revealed that age at slaughter is an important trait that should be considered to boost the profitability of the herd.

“The industry can make very real gains by focusing on the age at slaughter and getting animals to slaughter earlier,” she said.

The third speaker was HCC scholar, Dr Eleri Price, who outlined her PhD scholarship findings on breeding for better meat eating quality. She investigated genetic selection for lamb meat yield and quality in New Zealand and Australia progeny testing can allow the farmer to make more informed decisions. According to research, buying recorded rams and using data to achieve specification will enhance the quality of meat for consumption.

Parry added: “The feedback we received from the students and producers was extremely positive. We hope that the research will be put into practice and that the experts’ practical advice will be implemented on-farms across mid Wales, resulting in positive benefits for the industry.”

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