With an increasing amount of beef coming from the dairy herd, Cogent’s Beef Breeding Programme can help improve efficiency in the dairy-cross-beef sector and provide greater consistency for the whole supply chain.
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.
With this in mind, 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,” says Boomer Birch, Cogent’s beef programme manager.
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 fortnightly 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.
“The figures are calculated on each individual beef sire and are indicative of the benefits that the sire can contribute to the next generation when used in a dairy herd. By publishing these figures, we provide the farmer with a monetary value that can be used to foresee the benefits of using such genetics within their enterprise.”
The main goal of the programme is to ensure selection of bulls that can perform in any system. To ensure this, Cogent partnered with some of the most forward-thinking, progressive beef herds in the UK to develop bloodlines which produce repeatable genetics, from calving ease right through to carcase quality, explains Mr Birch. “Having this relationship with our breeders is allowing us to fulfil the requirements of the whole supply chain, and by utilising advanced breeding technologies, Cogent can create multiple pregnancies from programme-leading males and females to ensure they are bringing the correct genetics into the stud.”
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%.
“So, for the dairy farmer that needs calves which are easily born but of high quality, the grower who is looking for efficient, fast daily liveweight gain, the finisher who wants animals that lay down the correct ratios of muscle and fat, and finish quickly, and the processor who wants a carcase that consistently fits the spec with minimal waste, the improved Cogent Beef Programme can provide a solution,” Mr Birch adds.
The top eleven 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.
“With the expected growth of the dairy-cross-beef market, the strengthening of the programme marks a real opportunity for producers to get the most from their calves and capitalise on a rapidly expanding sector.”