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New breeding tools will help beef farmers boost profits

Five new Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) have been developed to help farmers improve profits by producing more animals that meet target specification.

AHDB Beef & Lamb has developed the EBVs in conjunction with Scotland’s Rural College and Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales and these are now being released as the AHDB National Beef Evaluations. The five new EBVs are:

  • Carcase weight (kg)
  • Carcase conformation (EUROP classification)
  • Carcase fat class (EUROP classification)
  • Slaughter age (days)
  • Average daily carcase gain (kg)

Alex Brown, AHDB Beef Breeding Projects Manager, said: “This is the first set of EBVs for traits that farmers are directly paid for, so they are useful to commercial as well as pedigree farmers. Considering a sire’s carcase figures when selecting calves for rearing is an example of how commercial farmers could use them to purchase better-performing cattle. However, it is important to consider this new data alongside other EBVs when selecting individuals for breeding. For example, animals of high carcase merit should not be chosen to the detriment of health and fertility traits such as calving ease.”

“We are seeing high levels of variation within all beef breeds for the new traits, so all breeds have the opportunity to make genetic progress in this area. The EBVs are expressed on two bases, native and continental, so EBVs can be compared between animals of the same breed type.”

The new EBVs have been calculated by combining data from abattoirs, BCMS and breed societies. The abattoir data currently covers 40 per cent of the national kill and more than 2 million carcase records for both purebred and crossbred animals have been used to develop the EBVs.

The new EBVs are freely accessible by searching by eartag or pedigree name via

For breeds that use BREEDPLAN there is an agreement with the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI) to access the data from the Breed’s BREEDPLAN results for individual animals to make it easier to access information in one place. This link is already live for Beef Shorthorn, British Blue, Charolais, Simmental and South Devon breeds, with a plan to roll out to other breeds in the near future.

Alex Brown comments: “This is a great step forward for breeding beef animals for better carcase quality. However, the production of these EBVs relies on sire details being recorded on passports to be able to identify genetic links between bulls and recorded progeny. In the development of these EBVs there were 2 million records that could not be utilised because the sire was not recorded in BCMS, so genetic links could not be made. We are urging farmers to make sure they record known sires when registering animals with BCMS as this is the best way to improve the range and accuracy of these EBVs.”

AHDB Beef & Lamb has produced a Suckler Breeding Plan to help farmers record sires used on groups of animals if they don’t have computer software. This can be found at

More information on carcase trait EBVs can be found at

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