Introduction to the challenge addressed

This good practice is related to the environmental sustainability thematic area of the BovINE project and falls under the topic “Tools for calculating and improving environmental sustainability on beef cattle farms”.

Every farm with suckler cows can implement this good practice. It has not only impact on environmental sustainability but can also have positive effects on slaughtering performance, feeding costs, cost-benefit ratio and economic outcome of the farm on the whole. The good practice is especially useful for farms with artificial insemination (AI) but can also be used by farms with their own stud bull if they fulfil certain requirements. The Good practice basically consists of using the relative breeding value of meat for the targeted mating of cows and bulls.

Description of Innovation

The relative breeding value consists of three components: 

  • maternal breeding value /daily gain up to the 200th day.
  • Breeding value for daily gain up to the 365th day of life 
  • Breeding value for muscling on the 365th day of life 

These are the criteria for the breeding bulls. By using the relative breeding value of meat the farmer is able to optimize fattening and slaughtering performance by improving genetic performance. Thus there is no need for extra feeding to reach better results. Feed conversion improves so resources are conserved and co2 saved, as no more grain needs to be grown for better slaughter performance. The cows also get a breeding value for meat as soon as they fulfil certain requirements. By including both the breeding values for the cows and the breeding values of the bulls in the decision-making process for mating, the results can be further improved. The farm will not see the results immediately tomorrow, it is more of a long-term project to make its beef cattle breeding sustainable. 

Impact on farm performance

In the long term the farmer will reach better feed conversion. This means, the fattening bulls will reach the same or even higher daily gain, muscling and slaughtering performance by less intake of concentrate. This improves cost-benefit ratio on the one hand. On the other hand it also means saving co2 and other resources as there is no need to extend the arable land. No need to grow more grains. With good mating decisions and good management it may even be possible to increase the use of forage such as grass silage or to feed more animals with the same amount of feed as before. But still it is important to keep in mind that this takes time to reach.

Farmer comment (for Good Practices)

We already managed to improve the weight of the young bulls for slaughtering without increasing concentrate or increasing the amount of food. This is already a nice result. Now we’re very excited about the first results of the estimation of the breeding value for our cows. We really hope to further improve the performance of our fattening bulls when we are able to take the cow’s results into consideration as well.