Farmers Signed Up to Project to Select Beef Cattle for Feed Efficiency

UK - The AHDB and DEFRA-funded Beef Feed Efficiency programme has reached a significant milestone by contracting two commercial farms to record feed efficiency traits.
calendar icon 8 June 2016
clock icon 2 minute read

Specialised equipment will be installed on both farms to record feed intake and performance of growing beef cattle over the next two years. The data collected will be used to generate tools that will drive forward the genetic selection of cattle for feed use efficiency.

The equipment installed will enable the recording of individual cattle intake over a 63-day test period, during which time liveweight gain and fat depth will also be recorded. Installation of the feed bins on both units is planned for June, ready for the first intake of cattle later in the summer.

The farms are located in Dorset and North Yorkshire and will each have the capacity to finish the cattle after they have been through the feed efficiency recording unit, enabling valuable carcase data to be collected.

“The location of the units offers a good geographical spread, as well as being in areas with significant numbers of cattle. This will be a real advantage in sourcing the cattle we need for the programme,” said Natalie Cormack, programme delivery manager.

“The establishment of these units is an important step for the programme. It will not only increase capacity for recording, but also start the process of embedding quality recording in a commercial setting and establish a strong platform for future development of the programme.”

One of the two units is run by Andy Foot who farms close to Dorchester in Dorset. He currently finishes mainly Angus-cross calves on contract. The second farm is located at Bedale in North Yorkshire, where Sam Webster currently finishes predominantly pure dairy bull calves on multiple units.

“Both of these farms already have very well-run beef enterprises and provide the programme with a fantastic resource to carry out feed efficiency recording,” said Ms Cormack. “‘They will also enable farmers and other industry stakeholders to come and see how the recording system will work and better understand what project outcomes could offer to the industry as a whole.”

Both farms have capacity for batches of around 120 cattle. A growing ration based on grass silage will be fed to cattle, who will be bedded on wood shavings to avoid the consumption of bedding material interfering with intake measurements.

The initial focus will be on recording Limousin-sired cattle which will be sourced from both suckler and dairy herds across the country. The ambition is to establish a sustainable system for recording feed efficiency that can be extended to other cattle breeds in the future.

Work currently being carried out at Scotland’s Rural College to collect feed intake records will continue until 500 cattle have been recorded over five batches.

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