Hereford Cattle Society has in recent times been working towards demonstrating why the breed is the most sustainable beef breed. For the first phase of the project, there was a focus on carbon footprints and herd performance, plus a review of the genetic trends for the performance recording breeds.
The results from the first phase highlighted three areas of future focus:
A focus on suckler cow efficiency is necessary/due to the herd performance highlighting the average Hereford-bred suckler cow efficiency is 38 per cent compared to an industry target of 45 per cent. The genetic trend work showed the genetic potential for the mature size of cows was increasing by 1kg per year and when the carbon footprints were averaged, cattle were responsible for 46 per cent of emissions.
On average sequestration (capture) of carbon by organic matter only offset 28 per cent of emissions, fertiliser and soil amendments was a hot spot on 80 per cent of the farms; and feed use was a hot spot for 40 per cent of the carbon footprints and so the improvement of grass and forage was identified as a focus area.
The need to highlight bulls of excellent value was because the genetic trends for carcase weight and carcase conformation are negative from National Beef Evaluation, with the Hereford needing to improve its ranking within native breeds for carcase weight, carcase conformation, carcase fat and average daily carcase gain. Only 21 purchasers have claimed money back from the superior carcase scheme (from mid-2017 to mid-2020).
A plan of activity to tackle these areas were taken to council and the following priorities were highlighted for activity in the next 12 months:
This will highlight animals with superior traits within the National Beef Evaluation and the results will be reviewed alongside AHDB and SRUC
The first stage is to understand how functional traits should be assessed
This service is starting to be offered to herds
This will help understand if the weightings within the index needs to be altered to reflect the ambition of the society, e.g. more positive weighings for smaller cows
This will start this autumn with visiting five herds to test the approach and to understand how much variation there is between animals. The results will be reviewed alongside Breedplan
Webinars will be planned for the autumn and winter to cover topics from the sustainability plan, with the ambition for on-farm events in 2023. These events will focus on the genetics, nutrition and health management of the herd and will provide clear evidence on why a focus on sustainability within the Hereford breed is fundamental to its growth. One of these events will be a Pasture For Life farm to highlight that Herefords are the popular breed in the pasture-fed movements and the traits that are needed.
For more information of the National Beef Evaluation visit https://ahdbbeef.egenes.co.uk/