EBVs key to lighter carcass weight requirements for suckler beef calves

Farmers should aim to buy bulls with a positive fat depth estimated breeding values (EBV)
Farmers should aim to buy bulls with a positive fat depth estimated breeding values (EBV)

Wales’ suckled calf producers must focus on breeding the right type of cattle to meet an increased demand for lighter carcass weights, according to a beef expert.

Suckler beef farmers should produce calves with the genetics finishers needed to hit required specifications – and that might mean reviewing their bull choice.

The advice was delivered by independent beef consultant Dr Liz Genever at a Farming Connect Knowledge Exchange event at Brecon Livestock Market.

Since changes to market specifications on carcasses were introduced in 2016, finishers are seeking suckler-bred calves capable of producing high killing out percentages at lighter weights.

Astonishingly, only around half of beef carcasses meet the target grid specification for conformation and fat class.

That variability must be reduced, warned Dr Genever, who said genetics were the key to unlocking the potential.

“Making better use of proven performance genetics by selecting bulls with superior growth and carcase traits has never been more relevant,” she said.

Bulls in a breed’s top 10% for growth and muscling and the breed average for fat are likely to be the sires which produce progeny that hit the specification.

Dr Genever recommends avoiding buying fast-growing, lean bulls with very high 400-day weights and large, negative fat depth estimated breeding values (EBV).

Producers should instead buy bulls with a positive fat depth EBV, while maintaining a focus on 200 day and 400-day growth EBVs.

“Aim for a bull within at the least the top 25% and one with very good calving figures,” Dr Genever advised.

Many suckler beef producers are currently in the process of making their bull buying decisions.

For farmers who intend to purchase at a sale, Dr Delana Davies, of the Welsh government's Farming Connect programme, advises requesting a copy of the sales catalogue in advance and drawing up a shortlist based on EBVs that match their requirements.

“Go to the sale and have a look at those bulls on your shortlist in the flesh and observe their locomotion, conformation and temperament,” she said.

“Have the confidence to bid on the bull that matches your requirements both on its performance figures and its looks.”