Milestone for Genetics Programme

The first calves bred for the Beef + Lamb NZ Genetics Informing NZ Beef (INZB) project, a seven-year programme supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund to improve beef genetics and their use by the beef industry have been weaned at Landcorp’s Kepler Farm in Southland.

This year was the first weaning of progeny tested calves, but numbers are expected to double next year to include another crop of first calvers.

BLNZ beef genetics’ specialist Anna Boyd said the aim is to boost profits within the sector by $460m over the next 25 years. It will include the development of a genetic evaluation system using traits relevant to and determined by New Zealand beef farmers.

It will also create tools so farmers can efficiently collect those traits, manage, and analyse the resulting data all underpinned by a new approach to information extension to beef farmers.

The 1500ha Kepler Farm near Manapouri in northern Southland is a specialist genetics unit for Landcorp, and farm manager Travis Leslie noted that the staff have the skills and understanding to monitor and record animal traits and data, along with appropriate stock handling facilities.

Landcorp ran Angus cows on the property but bought Herefords when it committed to the trial.

Kepler operates an all-grass system with the addition of baleage over winter.

Boyd said the purpose of the progeny test is to gather information to rank bulls across-breeds and to compare performance under the same management and conditions.

“This helps us to make comparisons across breeds, and to estimate the impact of hybrid vigour in the crossbreds and the impact of breed on maternal performance. This is important if we are to create an evaluation which is across breeds.”

Input from farmers will help decide what traits are recorded and the programme will be collecting docility, hip height, muscle scanning and condition score. There is also the scope to investigate new traits relevant to New Zealand.

About half the first calvers were artificially inseminated to Angus and Hereford bulls in 2020 using semen from bulls that had been previously used in progeny tests, with the other half naturally mated by follow up bulls.

Boyd said in the coming year stud breeders will be invited to nominate sires which will have to meet minimum estimated breeding values and adhere to Kepler Farm’s breeding objectives.

“Ultimately, the INZB programme will put tools in the hands of farmers that will increase the rate of genetic gain across New Zealand’s beef industry.”