The seven-year Informing New Zealand Beef (INZB) programme is at full-throttle as it enters its halfway mark.
The programme, which is led by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Genetics, is well underway to develop a beef genetic evaluation system that includes traits that are important to New Zealand’s beef farmers. To determine what these traits will be, the team sought input from INZB’s Industry Advisory Group (IAG) and had AbacusBio conduct an international review of traits in beef genetic evaluations and survey beef farmers on their trait priorities.
Fertility, functionality and feed efficiency were amongst the traits 720 beef farmers (breeders and finishers) stud breeders, dairy farmers and rural professionals identified as being of highest priority in the survey.
Other priority traits identified 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 align with the traits identified as a priority for further development within the programme by AbacusBio’s independent trait assessment and the IAG.
These results will help direct what traits will be carried forward in the INZB programme and will influence the future of New Zealand’s beef industry.
SECOND SITE SELECTED IN BEEF PROGENY TEST
Last year, Lochinver Station near Taupo joined Pāmu’s Kepler Farm in Southland as hosts of the across-breed Beef Progeny Test (BPT) which is a critical part of the INZB programme.
The addition of Lochinver has enabled Simmental genetics to be included in the
Test alongside Angus and Hereford genetics. Kepler Farm will continue focusing on testing Angus and Hereford genetics.
A total of 42 bulls were nominated for the 2022/23 breeding programme and 19 were selected – seven Angus (including one international link sire), seven Hereford and five Simmental.
Artificial insemination took place at Kepler in December and Lochinver in January.
The second cohort of calves were born last spring and measurements carried out at Kepler Farm at pre-calving/post-winter, calf marking, mating, pregnancy scanning and weaning. The AI-sired heifers from the first cohort will calve to natural-mate bulls and the steers will be processed for carcase and meat quality data, in 2023.
The next round of bull nominations for both the Beef Progeny Test and the Dairy Beef Progeny Test opens in June and breeders are encouraged to nominate their bulls into one or both of these Tests.
COMMERCIAL FARMERS INCLUDED
Last year, 10 commercial beef farmers were selected to take part in the INZB programme as a pilot and B+LNZ Genetics will be looking for another 10 this year.
The commercial farms are an important part of the programme and contribute to the accuracy of breeding values of stud bulls.
Those selected will provide accurate pedigree recording, assess performance of their stud bulls on farm, ensuring accurate information for heifer replacement selection and have the option to work with their bull breeders to make more rapid genetic progress. Farmers will also be able to benchmark their herd against others involved in the programme.
B+LNZ Genetics work alongside these farmers to develop operational plans for data recording.
The plans are farm-specific and include information such as current recording practices, whether they would like to use AI as part of the programme, level of interest in DNA sampling and genotyping, what traits they would like to record as part of the programme and what assistance and/or training is required.
Angus stud breeders are encouraged to talk to any of their commercial clients who they believe would be willing to participate in and benefit from inclusion in the programme. Interested farmers need to submit an expression of interest and go through an appropriate selection process.
GENETICS LEARNING MODULE AVAILABLE ONLINE
A Better Beef Breeding online learning module has been made available on B+LNZ’s Knowledge Hub. Based on the popular workshops, these modules allow farmers and their team to upskill on breeding better cattle whilst at home and in their own time.
OTHER INZB OBJECTIVES
Other objectives of INZB are to create easy-to-use data collection and management tools and create a new approach to extension design with the goal of increasing farmer engagement across the beef industry.
The seven-year INZB partnership, supported by B+LNZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund, aims to boost the industry’s profits by $460m over the next 25 years.
For more information about the programme visit: https://www.blnzgenetics.com/informing-nz-beef