Skip to the content

Beef Carcase Traits Project – The Breeds Involved

Beef producers in the UK aim to produce high quality meat as efficiently as possible but ultimately, payments for cattle relate to their carcase weight, conformation and fatness – with producers aiming for an R4L carcase or better on the EUROP grid.

To provide commercial producers with better tools to aid bull selection, AHDB Beef & Lamb, AHDB Dairy and HCC funded a research project at SRUC to generate EBVs for carcase traits using actual abattoir generated carcase data. This means that breeders can more accurately tailor their breeding to market demands and goals. Currently, we indirectly select for carcase traits through growth measurements and ultrasound scanning on live cattle to measure fat and muscle depth. However, this project aims to help producer’s select breeding stock based on EBVs produced directly from abattoir derived carcase data.

The project merges abattoir data with other national databases to produce beef genetic evaluations on actual carcase weight, conformation and fat class for breeds with sufficient numbers of records – including Holstein cattle. This project is nearing completion and has collected 4.8 million carcase records from a wide range of abattoirs that have been matched with national databases, including BCMS, to create a “super-pedigree” for each individual animal.

Analysis of these abattoir records for carcase weight in relation to age, carcase conformation and carcase fat classification has shown heritability values ranging from 0.4 to over 0.6. This indicates eventual selection based on carcase EBVs will be successful and result in increased genetic gain – which is an exciting prospect for the beef industry.

Currently, nearly three million UK beef and dairy animals have had preliminary EBVs produced for the new traits. The table below shows the number of sires involved separated by breed.

Breed Number of Sires Breed Number of Sires
Aberdeen Angus 12822 Lincoln Red 257
Aubrac 7 Longhorn 300
Ayrshire 343 Luing 462
Bazadaise 157 Maine Anjou 4
Beef Shorthorn 1853 Marchigiana 12
Belted Welsh Black 1 Meuse Rhine Issel 113
Blonde D’Aquitaine 1984 Montbeliarde 115
Blue Albion 8 Murray Grey 47
british blue 1853 Normande 10
British White 134 Parthenais 38
Brown Swiss 79 Piemontese 68
Charolais 7618 Pinzgauer 1
Dairy Shorthorn 131 Red Poll 178
Danish Red 2 Romagnola 8
Devon 589 Salers 927
Dexter 61 Shetland 19
fleckvieh 1 Simmental 7056
Friesian 742 South Devon 1794
Galloway 516 Speckle Park 4
Gasconne 5 Stabiliser 735
Gelbvieh 86 Sussex 369
Gloucester 40 Swedish Red & White 12
Groninger Blaarkop 1 Tyrone Black 2
Guernsey 141 Unknown. 53
Hereford 4719 Unspecified Beef. 12
Highland 560 Unspecified Continental. 1
Holstein 11403 Wagyu 1
Irish Moiled 13 Water Buffalo 1
Jersey 268 Welsh Black 878
Limousin 15411 Welsh White 3
    White Park 60

These EBVs will increase in reliability and accuracy as more cattle are included in the dataset. When the sire is known, BCMS data can be used to create genetic links across the bovine population providing huge potential for the cattle industry to move forward as one to create as many target cattle as possible in the R4L range. However in the time being, the increased recording of sires would enhance the number of animals that could be included that will feedback for breed improvement.

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