Breeding programme aimed at adding value to the Beef on Dairy market
It is estimated that around 50% of all beef in the UK is a product of the dairy herd, with this figure predicted to continue in an upward trend over the next five years. Therefore, improving the quality of these cattle can bring benefits to both dairy farmers and the wider beef supply chain.
Cogent has been working to strengthen its Beef Breeding Programme over the past three years to help guide producers on breeding decisions which are likely to be more beneficial for the dairy-cross-beef market. The programme partners with nucleus herds to develop reputable and bespoke genetics for each sire breed. By working with individual herds, Cogent ensures consistent and desired sire lines whose marketable traits flow through to the cross bred calf.
The Cogent Beef programme is designed to address the ever-increasing demand of using beef semen in the dairy herd, highlighting the importance of providing consistent genetics that are repeatable.
Within the breeding programme, bulls are bred for dairy industry-desired traits such as conception rate, calving ease and gestation length. Long standing data collection with over 318,000 data points increasing on a bi-weekly basis, has enabled Cogent to monitor both the bull and its progeny’s performance before making the semen commercially available.
Bulls from the breeding programme boast an average gestation length of 280 days and a calving ease of 97.9% indicating that, on average, around <3% of calvings will be difficult, or will require moderate veterinary assistance.
Calf quality varies with sire breed; the British Blue takes the highest quality at 91% closely followed by the Aberdeen Angus at 88%. Quality is determined by Cogent’s unique scoring system based on conformation and fleshing ability of the calf, defining the differences between continental and native cross-bred progeny.
Specific bulls originating from the breeding programme are currently averaging 512 days to slaughter coupled with over 87.4% of progeny achieving a 4L fat grade and below. Conformation is also looking attractive with 97% of slaughtered progeny hitting a 0+ grade or higher. High carcass dead weight coincides with exceptional kill out percentages, which are consistently averaging above 51.7%.
The top 11 Aberdeen Angus bulls for intramuscular fat (IMF) within the breed society register have been bred and developed by Cogent as a result of the strengthened beef programme, providing excellent eating quality, ticking boxes for the retailer and consumer.
All 11 of these 2020 bulls have now entered semen production within Cogent’s state-of-the-art bull stud, providing high-performance, high-quality semen to both UK and international markets, adds Mr Birch. “The beef semen quality is suitable for male SexedULTRA 4M, and advancements in media and sorting procedures allow Cogent to provide male sexed semen greater than 90% purity and a QC quality that matches the dairy SexedULTRA 4M offering.