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New Zealand’s beef sector considers fertility, functionality and feed efficiency to be the highest-priority traits, according to a cattle trait prioritisation survey.

More than 700 farmers and rural professionals took part in the Beef + Lamb New Zealand-funded Informing New Zealand Beef (INZB) survey, which will help decide the direction the programme takes in developing a genetic evaluation system for the industry.

Other priority traits identified by beef producers were calving ease, growth and weight traits (including carcass), and body condition score (BCS). Of these, mature cow BCS, fertility and cow functionality traits aligned with the traits identified as a priority for further development by the programme’s research team.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand, with the support of the Ministry for Primary Industries and the New Zealand Meat Board, is leading the Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) partnership INZB programme.

It aims to improve profitability and enhance sustainability across New Zealand’s beef industry through the development and adoption of improved genetics.

In addition to developing a beef genetic evaluation system that includes traits of importance to New Zealand’s beef farmers, the programme will also create easy-to-use tools to enable data to be efficiently collected, managed, analysed and used by farmers to make profitable decisions for their operation.

INZB genetics programme manager Gemma Jenkins said the survey results indicated strong support for the use of breeding values and indexes, 89% of respondents believing EBVs were a faster way of improving the herd than other methods.

A total of 72% agreed that New Zealand farm systems required specialist indexes.

‘‘Our indexes should be fit for our industry. There are some traits that are more relevant to the New Zealand environment and should therefore be included in New Zealand-specific genetic evaluations and indexes to ensure we’re making genetic progress on them — while also continuing to progress on current productivity traits.

‘‘As part of the INZB programme, we will build these New Zealand-specific indexes and decide what traits to develop EBVs for, using input from advisory groups, international experts and New Zealand farmers.

‘‘These results will help direct what traits will be carried forward in the INZB programme and will influence the future of New Zealand’s beef industry.’’

As well as surveying New Zealand’s beef industry, the team sought input from INZB’s Industry Advisory Group. AbacusBio also carried out a review of international beef genetic evaluations.

Commercial farmers (breeders and finishers), stud breeders, rural professionals and dairy farmers took part in the survey.

The three Fs . . . Fertility, functionality and feed efficiency are the traits beef farmers value most highly, a new survey shows. PHOTO: SUPPLIED