Survey identifies traits of importance to NZ beef producers

// Breeding and Genetics

Fertility, functionality and feed efficiency were amongst the traits 720 beef farmers and rural professionals identified as being of highest priority in a recent cattle trait preference survey.

image  of beef herd

The survey, which was carried out earlier this year, was part of the Informing New Zealand Beef Programme (INZB). Amongst other objectives, INZB is working to develop a beef genetic evaluation system that includes traits of importance to New Zealand’s beef farmers.

The views of New Zealand’s beef industry were well covered with responses coming from commercial farmers (breeders and finishers), stud breeders, rural professionals and dairy farmers.

As well as surveying NZ’s beef industry, the team sought input from INZB’s Industry Advisory Group (IAG) and had a review of  international beef genetic evaluations carried out by AbacusBio.

Other priority traits identified by beef producers were calving ease, growth and weight traits (including carcase) and Body Condition Score (BCS).

Of these, feed efficiency/intake, mature cow BCS, fertility and cow functionality traits aligned with the traits identified as a priority for further development within the programme by AbacusBio’s independent trait assessment and the IAG.

The seven-year INZB partnership, between B+LNZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries, aims to improve profitability and enhance sustainability across New Zealand’s beef industry through the development and adoption of improved genetics.

INZB Genetics Programme Manager Gemma Jenkins says the results indicated a strong support for the use of breeding values and indexes, with 89% believing EBVs are a faster way of improving the herd compared to other methods. A total of  72% agreed that NZ farm systems require specialist indexes.

“Our indexes should be fit for our industry. There are some traits that are more relevant to the NZ environment and should therefore be included in NZ-specific genetic evaluations and indexes to ensure we’re making genetic progress on them – while also continuing to progress on current productivity traits.”

“As part of the INZB programme, we will build these NZ-specific indexes and decide what traits to develop EBVs for, using input from advisory groups, international experts and most importantly NZ farmers.”

She says these results will help direct what traits will be carried forward in the INZB programme and will influence the future of NZ’s beef industry.

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