Informing New Zealand Beef Programme reaches halfway mark

// Breeding and Genetics

The seven-year Informing New Zealand Beef (INZB) programme, supported by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), the New Zealand Meat Board and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund, has now reached the halfway mark. Dan Brier, General Manager – Farming Excellence at B+LNZ, outlines the progress to date.

image of Hereford bull

“We’re on a mission to give breeders and farmers genetic tools to help produce great tasting beef and drive production efficiency,” says Dan.

“In addition to developing a beef genetic evaluation system to support a sustainable beef farming industry in New Zealand, the INZB programme is creating easy-to-use tools to enable data to be efficiently collected, managed, analysed and used by farmers to make profitable decisions for their operation.

“The start of the programme was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic so it’s been really good to see INZB hitting its stride and we’re making good progress developing tools to put into farmers’ hands.

“The key achievements so far include the development of new traits, extension materials so farmers have the opportunity to use this information on their own farms, as well as advances in technology and genetics software.

“We have developed new genetic indexes for the industry to use and now have a prototype version of nProve for beef.”

One of the most exciting and satisfying aspects of working in the programme has been the level of engagement with farmers, says Dan.

“We have a real laser focus on our goal of boosting the New Zealand beef sector’s profits by $460 million over the next 25 years. Key to that is engaging with breed societies and stud breeders. We have put a lot of time and energy into making that as successful as it can be and the response has been excellent.

“Progeny testing is well established at two farms and this is delivering important information that allows us to underpin our evaluations. In particular, these progeny tests will allow farmers to compare bulls across various breeds using the same scale.

“The programme is also bringing more commercial farmers into the programme. This year we have more than 20 Better Beef Buying workshops planned across the country, getting new information and content to commercial farmers.

“We have commercial farmers involved in a project providing data back to stud farmers. This increases the amount of data that stud breeders can use for their on-farm selection and increases the quality of bulls available for sale.”

Developing new traits

The programme is on the way to creating new traits, in particular body condition score for cows and is prototyping new greenhouse gas (GHG) measurement Portable Accumulation Chambers (PAC) technology.

A project using new technologies to monitor animal movements so INZB can develop new fertility traits is also underway.

“These traits are very important to farmers but are very hard to measure and assess currently,” says Dan.

“It takes a project like INZB to get that out of the ‘too hard’ basket and actually happening.”

What next?

Over the next year or so, farmers will begin to see a range of tools and information including the publication of the indexes and prototypes and cross-breed analysis, says Dan.

“We will have data coming from the new trait development work and expect to see the body condition work in use by the end of the programme. We are also looking forward to farmers being able to access bull information from the same nProve tool they are currently using for sheep.

“There will be more commercial farmers submitting data for stud breeder decision-making and we also hope to expand the fertility work to more farmers, collecting data through using tags.”

Farmers will get an opportunity to see the ground-breaking programme in action at a field day at Lochinver Station in the central North Island on March 5.

You can also learn more about the programme by watching this video.