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Review of genetic improvement in UK beef cattle and sheep

Genetic improvement delivers substantial economic benefit to the UK’s sheep and beef industries. The financial benefit to UK sheep producers via increased productivity is £10.7 million per year, with beef producers gaining £4.9 million.

Following on from a review of genetic improvement in the UK’s sheep and beef industries in 2007 by Amer et al., a similar review was conducted in 2014 by Abacus Bio ltd. Consultation with breeders identified a considerable pool of individuals who were actively committed to performance recording, and who see potential in future developments. Relevant respondents to the survey also indicated that they were very happy with the service provided by Signet.

Although successful, and providing substantial value for money for UK beef and sheep producers, room for development does exist within the current structure. Greater focus on maternal productivity and maternal traits was described as one area of possible future focus. It was reported that the drive for terminal sire traits in some breeds who were contributing to the maternal sheep flock/suckler herd was having a detrimental effect on female productivity.

Additionally a call was made for some form of centralised progeny testing, a concept already in motion both with the RamCompare project in sheep and Net Feed Efficiency trial in cattle. Greater data feedback along the production chain was also a priority, with the Carcase Traits Evaluation Project approaching completion this year being a step in the right direction in beef cattle, and the RamCompare trial using slaughter data from commercial lambs.

There was particular focus on genomics within the review. It was identified as an area of future development, especially for hard to measure traits such as meat eating quality. However, it was also stressed that the collection of robust industry data is the key to successful implementation of genomics in any livestock industry.

To read the full report, please click here

About the author

Samuel Boon

Samuel Boon

I am the Manager of Signet Breeding Services, within the AHDB.

Enthusiast on all things genetics to do with sheep and cattle and currently also supporting Bridget Lloyd in running the @RamCompare progeny test with ~18,000 lambs/annum.

I am also involved with the:-

  • Relaunch of Terminal Sire Breeding Programmes (Sheep)
  • AHDB lead for the Welsh Sheep Breeding Project run by HCC - working with Innovis, HCC and Janet Roden
  • Database design and development for this website
  • National Sheep Breeds Survey
  • Development of Carcase Trait EBVs in Beef Cattle
  • Formerly involved with the delivery of the Welsh Sheep Strategy, Northern Upland Sheep Strategy, Suckler Cow Project, Highlands and Islands Sheep Strategy

I can be followed on Twitter @SamBoonBreeding