Informing NZ Beef research shows commercial beef farmers turning to genetic tools

Commercial beef farmers and breeders are increasingly seeking tools which provide more information on functional traits and enable them to better compare genetic traits, according to research for the Beef + Lamb New Zealand-funded Informing New Zealand Beef (INZB) programme.

An annual industry survey of farmers, beef breeders and rural professionals, including agricultural consultants and facilitators, stock agents and vets, found farmers were becoming more aware of genetic tools.

The industry survey tracks awareness, knowledge and use of genetic tools in the New Zealand beef industry over time. INZB programme manager Gemma Jenkins said the research highlights the importance of the work already being undertaken, such as the across-breed beef Progeny Test and development of a NZ-specific genetic evaluation.

“Farmers have told us the new areas they want to focus are traits such as fertility and Body Condition Score.

“These should be included in New Zealand-specific genetic evaluations and indexes to ensure we’re making genetic progress on them.”

However, the research also found that a lack of understanding about Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) limits farmer uptake.

“INZB has a strong focus on education and extension and is delivering resources to support greater understanding and use of EBVs.

“That includes our field days, an online Beef Breeder workshop to discuss maternal productivity and reproduction, Better Beef Breeding workshops for commercial farmers and an online learning module.”

Research respondents recognised that beef genetics have lagged behind sheep and dairy genetics and welcomed the work being undertaken by INZB, with growing awareness among farmers of the tools the programme is developing.

There has also been an increase in the use of Artificial Insemination (AI). Sixty-seven percent of bull breeders and 17 percent of commercial farmers reported using AI in 2022, compared to 61 percent and 10 percent respectively during 2021.

INZB is a seven-year Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures partnership supported by B+LNZ, the New Zealand Meat Board and the Ministry for Primary Industries. It aims to boost the sector’s profits by $460m over the next 25 years.

It is developing a beef genetic evaluation system that includes traits that are important to New Zealand beef farmers, supporting a sustainable beef farming industry

The programme is also creating easy-to-use tools that enable data to be efficiently collected, managed, analysed and used by farmers to make profitable decisions for their operation.

A new approach to extension design with the goal of increasing farmer engagement across the industry is being developed. The impact of these extension activities and the programme as a whole will be measured over time with this annual industry survey to ensure the industry benefits from the genetic tools produced as part of the INZB programme.

Source:  Beef + Lamb NZ

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog