Meat quality results out for beef progeny test
The first meat quality results from the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics (BLNZ Genetics) beef progeny test are showing that farmers can select genetics to markedly improve their beef herds, and better marbling than expected in some breeds.
Last year the test showed superior growth rates for the Simmental breed in particular compared to Angus, Hereford & Charolais. Recently the 52 bulls involved in Cohort 1 of the progeny test, were ultrasound scanned providing a snapshot of their meat quality.
The results show how the different sires of the five breeds are performing with regard to intra muscular fat (IMF), or marbling, a key indicator for meat quality.
National Beef Genetics manager for BLNZ Genetics Max Tweedie says there’s a tendency for Angus cattle to have the highest IMF, but there are Simmental sires that have performed above the average for the group and above some Angus sires.
“They performed at or above expectation for a terminal breed. There are certainly bulls in the Simmental breed that have both traits (strong growth and marbling) and the results are hammering that home”.
He says while the ultrasound results are not as conclusive as carcase results collected in the abattoir, being released next month, they do give an indicative sire comparison.
In its fourth year, the beef progeny test is being run across five large commercial properties, involving around 2200 cows and heifers each year. It aims to determine how bulls of different breeds – Angus, Hereford, Stabilzer, Simmental and Charolais, from USA, Australia and NZ – perform under comparable commercial conditions in different environments, capture the worth of superior genetics from breeding cow performance, finishing ability and carcase attributes.
Simmental New Zealand Council member Daniel Absolom says the across breed performance and variation within breed between sires is of most interest. For Simmental to show such superior growth performance from birth to slaughter should be compelling for commercial farmers to consider them as terminal sire, he says.
“The early indication from the ultrasound is they are competitive in terms of meat quality. Effectively they are punching above their weight because the European breeds have not previously been recognised in New Zealand as having that sort of marbling.”
Whangara Farms, 30km north of Gisborne on the East Coast, is one of five commercial farms involved in the project. It runs a 2500-cow herd, half of which are mated to Simmental bulls as terminal sires and for the past four years has had 800 cows involved in the test.
Manager Richard Scholefield encourages farmers to take on board results from the test and apply the data to their own operation. “The results that are coming out are pretty compelling when you look at the figures. You can’t refute them.”
B+LNZ Genetics says Simmental in New Zealand perform particularly well because its breeders have continued to invest in genetic improvement. “They are a pretty forward-thinking group of breeders that all seem to have clear breeding objectives.”
Daniel Absolom says the Simmental society supports the project because it is gleaning information that’s not been captured before. “We believe the data from this project will shed new light on the genetics that actually make commercial farmers the best returns from their cow calf operations. All commercial farmers can use that information to their own advantage.”
B+LNZ Genetics says one key finding from the research is that using Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) to select sires with desired traits to improve a herd works.
“Every farmer should have a breeding objective. They should know where they are going and what their preferences are for their breeding herd,” says Max Tweedie. From there they can use the test results to identify the sires and programmes they need to help them meet their objectives, especially given how easy AI (artificial insemination) is now for commercial herds.
Richard Scholefield says it would add huge value to the beef industry if more farmers adopted the use of EBVs and genomics. “We need to get up with other countries, and embrace the genetic technology available.”
“I challenge farmers to have a look at their genetic gain and where they are going and make sure they use a breeder that has the same goals and objectives.”
“The decision you make today on what bull to use will affect your herd productivity and profitability for the next 10 years, probably more, depending on how long you are going to breed from the females,” he says.
The progeny test results come on the back of strong prices for Simmental-cross calves at North Island weaner sales, with the breed often fetching the top steer prices in a buoyant market this year.
BLNZ Genetics is releasing the carcase results at two field days in May, at Mendip Hills Station, North Canterbury on May 1, and Rangitaiki Station, Taupo on May 8.