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Beef Feed Efficiency Programme: Improving The Sustainability and Competitive Position of The UK Beef Industry Through Selective Breeding – Meat Quality. - SCF0221

A previous Defra funded project (IF0207) found that at the current rate of use of recorded bulls, 10 fiscal years of selection when considered over a time horizon of 20 fiscal years, is expected to result in a cumulative increase in profit of around £30.9M at the commercial farm level in the UK, whilst also contributing to a GHG reduction of around 726,000 tonnes.

A following project (SCF0201) then found inclusion of feed intake records, allowing for selection of feed efficient beef into the current breeding goal (IF0207 results), could increase the benefits found in IF0207 by 27% for GHG (CO2eq) emission reductions over a 20-year horizon assuming 10 years of continued selection) – from a 726,000t saving, to 918,000t. An increased economic response of 40%, from £30.9M to £43.4M, was also predicted. ​

However, selection for feed efficiency may affect other traits, particularly meat quality and some studies internationally have suggested that selection for feed efficiency may result in tougher meat. Thus meat quality testing of more efficient beef is required to avoid damaging UK beef production and for buy-in from stakeholders (e.g. supermarkets). Therefore, this project will include an assessment of the quality of meat from feed efficient cattle and evaluations into genetics of feed efficiency traits and meat quality.

This project also includes the scoping of a data tool to integrate data sources and make beef/sheep breeding information (economic/health/genetic) available via a single platform.
Objectives and outcomes include:

Define draft protocols for meat quality recording to develop a phenotype platform to support farm relevant phenotyping, genetic and genomic innovation.

- Collect feed intake records on 750 Limousin cattle to provide a dataset for investigating the methods, opportunity and benefits for the use of a genomic approach to feed efficiency in a cross bred population and provide a cohort of animals with both feed efficiency and meat quality phenotypes.

- Implement a platform measurement of meat quality to generate standardised meat quality measurements in a near commercial scenario from 1500 individuals.

- Undertake genomic analysis of crossbred data for feed efficiency and meat quality to offer an alternative genetic improvement deployment model for the industry to engage with and adopt win future business models.

- Determine genetic parameters for meat quality attributes including correlations with other traits (e.g. welfare, production, quality) in the breeding goal and establish if/how genetics can be used to maximise meat health/quality attributes.

- Determine expected responses (e.g. environmental, economic) to incorporating meat quality into broader breeding goal.

- Improve the understanding of, and quantify, the impact of genetic progress on beef and sheep on environmental impact (including reduced GHG emissions), and derive suitable metrics to track progress towards these. Alongside this, updated estimates of the economic impact of animal breeding will be determined.

- Explore the benefits (and potential disadvantages) of moving to a single “National Breeding System” for different categories of stakeholders. This will combine literature and desk-based evaluation, with targeted stakeholder interviews, to inform the development to maximise the benefits and minimise the obstacles as far as possible.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2020

To: 2023

Cost: £866,367
Contractor / Funded Organisations
SAC, A H D B (AHDB) - (LIVESTOCK) - Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board
Animal Feed              
Sustainable Farming and Food