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Selection for muscle depth heads the list of those traits most valued by recording breeders when buying a ram, according to an AHDB Beef and Lamb funded survey. Whilst beef producers, using both Signet and Breedplan tend to rank calving ease as the most important trait in their breeding programme.

Replies were received from 408 sheep and beef breeders, with answers being standardized to avoid biases. Results are presented in Charts 1 and 2.

The results show that sheep breeders are also focussed on improving traits that influence lamb growth rates and the milking ability of ewes, whilst beef producers tended to focus on those traits influencing ease of calving and later calf growth rates. New beef traits like docility and scrotal circumference appear to be in demand, although a degree of caution is required here as neither trait is produced for every beef breed.

Breeders are placing noticeably less emphasis on fatness within their selection decisions, indicating the progress made in avoiding overfat lambs through improvements in growth rate and the consequential need to optimise selection for leanness/fatness within sheep and beef breeding programmes; a feature already embraced in most modern breeding programmes.

This extract has been taken from the “Review of the genetic improvement of beef cattle and sheep in the UK with special reference to the potential for genomics” a report funded by AHDB Beef and Lamb and completed being written up by Peter Amer and colleagues at Abacus Bio. 2015. More information on this work will follow.

Chart 1. Relative importance of traits for selecting rams

chart 1 abacus

Click to enlarge

 

*(S) refers to the standardized variables. That is why the relative importance varies from -4 to 2.5 instead of the original 0-10 scale.

Boxplot representing the average (black point), the median (black lines), the first and third quartiles (contained in the boxes), the dispersion (dashed line), and outliers (empty points) of the distribution of the ranks of each trait improvement

Chart 2. Relative importance of traits for selecting bulls

Char 2 abacus

Click to enlarge

 

*(S) refers to the standardized variables. That is why the relative importance varies from -4 to 2.5 instead of the original 0-10 scale.

Boxplot representing the average (black point), the median (black lines), the first and third quartiles (contained in the boxes), the dispersion (dashed line), and outliers (empty points) of the distribution of the ranks of each trait improvement