Producing high-value weanlings
Top-quality calves, a balance between conformation and liveweight and a focus on improving the average rather than the best are the cornerstones of high-value suckler weanling production in Ireland.
That is according to John Lynch, beef programme manager at Dovea Genetics, who, during a recent suckler beef breeding webinar, revealed that having a uniform-type cow is central to successful suckling.
That is, as he defined it, a docile, medium-sized female with calving ability and functionality, high fertility, good legs and feet, good calving ability, good pelvic width and maternal traits.
He urged farmers that it can be helpful to identify a cow’s myostatin, to feed into the sire selection decision-making process.
In a previous news article on That’s Farming, CAFRE beef technologist, Natasha Ferguson, explained what myostatin is and what it means for your suckler herd, which you can read.
Lynch capitalised on this information by highlighting the following:
- F94L – Up to 19% greater muscling with no associated increase in calving difficulty (generally easy calving), decreased fertility. Regarded as the ‘profit’ gene.
- NT821 – Extreme muscle gene – more shape, disruptive, and slightly bigger calves. Larger loin depth, reduced fat depth and large, rounded rump. Larger birth weights and increased calving difficulty. Regarded as the ‘blue gene’ and can be seen in Parthenaise, Limousin and Angus.
- Q204X – Larger loin depth, reduced fat cover and greater meat tenderness. Larger birth weights, bigger calves, more power, more bone, higher weight gains and reduced milking ability. Regarded as the ‘Charolais’ gene.
According to Lynch, when selecting bulls for your system, you have several factors to take into account, including breed, target market, calving ease, cow type, myostatin and system.
He outlined that carcass traits, scheme requirements, colour/ red gene carrier and myostatin are “add-ons” to your breeding decisions.
Lynch commented: “I would be saying for the weanling export market, the closer you are to a good red or black Limousin cows with at least 50% Limousin blood the better; you need that to produce uniform weanlings for the export market.”
“Once you go into the 75%-bred Limousin cows or pedigrees that work well for producing weanlings for export to cross with a Belgian Blue bull, you could get away with using an easier calving bull.”
“With plainer cows with 50% LM and 50% dairy influence, you need to use a more extreme Belgian Blue bull, but with a better cow, you will get away with an easy-calving type of a bull.”