Data collection underway in Next Generation beef herds

// Breeding and Genetics

Data collection from the first 10 commercial farmers involved in the Informing New Zealand Beef programme is in full swing, with the recruitment of another cohort of commercial farmers well underway.

Jason Archer and Anna Boyd

Anna Boyd, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Genetic Specialist – Beef, says commercial farmers are an important part of the seven-year B+LNZ-funded Informing New Zealand Beef (INZB) programme.

“We’re focused on giving breeders and farmers genetic tools to help produce great tasting beef and drive production efficiency. B+LNZ wants commercial farmers to really understand the value of better genetics and be able to easily select the right genetics for their system, to drive greater profitability.

“Commercial farmers are key because they provide increased linkages throughout the beef industry and contribute to genetic evaluations through the recording of data and the incorporating of this data into breeding value prediction. This ultimately increases the accuracy with which breeding values, or genetic merit, can be estimated,” she says.

Developing New Zealand specific breeding values is one of the key outcomes of the INZB programme.

Anna says the first 10 commercial farmers were a pilot for the programme and allowed B+LNZ Genetic’s team to establish the processes required, from recruitment to on-farm data collection.
This includes DNA genotyping to match the calf to the cow, growth weights, calf docility scores, cow Body Condition Score and reproductive performance.

Anna says while farmers aren’t required to record information on calves at birth, such as birth date or birth weight, they do need to record an accurate foetal age at pregnancy scanning, to within five-day increments, so that the performance of those calves can be analysed.

“We are working with our farmers now to ensure this is captured.”

She says participating farmers are using a range of data collection tools from phone apps to FarmIQ and Stockbook but they need to be able to transfer and utilise this data with as much ease as possible.

Anna and her North Island-based colleague Craig Foote work to ensure participating commercial farmers feel supported with their on-farm data collection requirements and that they see value in recording traits they may not have previously recorded but are interested in. This includes Body Condition Scoring cows, recording a calving assistance score and docility scoring calves. Full training is provided for all these.

“This information is gold for our evaluation, but it is also valuable from a management point of view,” says Anna.

The interview process is underway for the second cohort of commercial farmers to be included in the INZB programme. Anna says both the quality and quantity of applicants shows how enthusiastic commercial breeders are about improving the performance of their herds as well as the opportunity to contribute to the progress of the NZ beef industry.

The INZB partnership, supported by B+LNZ, the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund and the New Zealand Meat Board, aims to boost the sector’s profits by $460m over the next 25 years.

Focused on increasing uptake of the use of high-quality genetics in the beef industry, the four main components of the programme are developing New Zealand-specific breeding indexes, building an across breed genetic evaluation and data infrastructure, running a beef progeny test and linking in data from commercial herds.