Introduction to the challenge adressed

This good practice is related to the production efficiency and meat quality thematic area of the BovINE project and falls under the topic “Tools to evaluate the carcass and meat quality prior to and in slaughterhouse”. The GP can be implemented on any farm breeding cattle for beef production in Germany as well as in other countries. The samples are send to the corresponding laboratory for the country. It was developed to improve meat quality in dairy-beef crossbreeds but can be equally used for beef cattle.

Description of the Good Practice

To use the index it is necessary to take a DNA sample. Therefore, a ready-to-use tissue sampling unit can be purchased. With this unit you take a tissue sample of skin. The procedure equals the procedure of ear-tagging without an ear tag. Another possibilities are blood samples or hair (including hair root). The sample is send to the laboratory of "neogen" with a form asking for the DNA profile suitable for your animals. Depending on the profile you asked for, an index is formed from several features. For beef cattle the "Igenity Terminal-Index" should be the most interesting index. This index is designed to improve all terminal features, including average daily gain, weight, marbling and high rip. At the same time intake of residual food and fat thickness is reduced for a better control of feeding costs. The index provides information on which animals on the farm have the best genetic prerequisites for the tested values and thus helps to make selection decisions, e.g. with which animals to continue breeding, which are well suited for own fattening or which animals may be sold early. Another interesting index for beef cattle farms could be the production index, which has a big focus on marbling and average daily gain combined with positive markers for motherhood and extension of the useful life to improve the female heifers for replacement as well.

Impact on farm performance

The on-farm issue would be to improve features of the carcass as well as of the finisher cattle itself. For breeders other indices with more focus on motherhood and birth process are available. The indices help to optimize cost-benefit ratio. With the indices for motherhood and birth process, difficult births with the danger of death calves or injuries of the cow can be prevented. With the right index beef cattle farms can improve average daily gain, marbling, and weight and quality of the carcass. 

The GP can be implemented by any farmer right away. The results can be seen and analysed by the results of the following samples. The main value is the optimisation of the carcass quality and average daily gain on the basis of the genotype. You can select animals to breed with by their genetic potential for high meat quality. If you want to see progress in your herd you have to select animals by their genotype very consequently.

Farmer comment

A farmer from Germany (North Rhein Westfalia, Charolais suckler cows and own fattening unit for young bulls): “It’s a fantastic tool to rank cattle. Makes it a lot easier to decide if a nice looking heifer is going to stay on the farm or if it hasn’t got the genomic precondition. We don’t decide a hundred percent by genomics, the phenotype also has to be functional to ensure a long life at our farm. Still, we don’t want to miss it anymore.”