How French Limousin breeders work collectively to enhance their herds

An built-in method to growing and selling the Limousin breed in France is giving beef producers the instruments to get the most effective from their cattle.

The French Limousin organisation, Le Pôle de Lanaud, brings collectively beneath one roof:

  • Herd-book Limousin, which certifies pure-bred Limousin cattle for breed members
  • France Limousin Sélection (FLS), chargeable for breed choice
  • Interlim Génétique Service, the business arm of FLS, promoting breeding cattle, semen and embryos in France and internationally
  • Station de Lanaud, the place bull calves, chosen from member farms, are evaluated and ranked prepared on the market
  • Ingenomix, which carries out genomic testing to foretell the genetic potential of cattle.

See additionally: 10 methods one farm makes suckler beef worthwhile

The centre, on a farm simply outdoors Limoges, additionally hosts Limousine Park, an agritourism customer attraction, and Le Lanaud, a 100-seat restaurant showcasing Limousin beef and different native produce.

On the coronary heart of Le Pôle de Lanaud is the sale ring, the place 4 two-day bull gross sales are held annually, in January, March, June and November.

The sale ring holds as much as 450 individuals, and on-line shopping for, arrange throughout Covid restrictions and maintained since, attracts an extra 300 potential patrons.

Olivier Rambert

Olivier Rambert © MAG/Judith Tooth

“One of the best ways is to come back right here,” says Olivier Rambert, business supervisor of Interlim, which takes a margin on gross sales and an annual price from members by way of Herd-book Limousin.

“You possibly can join with individuals, meet mates, as you’d at, say, Carlisle. It makes for atmosphere, and when you’ve got that, you’ve got sale.”

In particular person or on-line, it’s the choice and analysis of bulls within the run-up to those gross sales that actually attracts potential patrons eager to enhance the efficiency of their herds yr on yr.

Bull choice

To arrange for the sale of the five hundred bulls that qualify annually from this choice course of, essentially the most promising 700 bull calves are chosen from among the many farmer members of Herd-book Limousin.

These bulls are then evaluated to find out their breeding potential.

Between them, these 1,400 farmers personal 100,000 registered pedigree cows, or one tenth of France’s whole Limousin herd.

Julien Mante, technical supervisor of FLS, manages the on-farm choice programme.

He heads a group of 13 technicians who work with members throughout France, registering calves, making mating plans for his or her herds, choosing younger male calves for the testing station, and serving to establish the most effective heifers as herd replacements.

“Breeders put male calves ahead for consideration for testing – in whole, about 2,400 a yr,” he explains.

“Technicians then examine them on farm and choose 700. This represents 30% choice stress. Then, earlier than the younger bulls arrive, Interlim and the technicians examine them once more and filter out an extra 100.”

Desassure Limousin cull cow

© MAG/Judith Tooth

How are they examined?

The bulls – dropped at Le Pôle de Lanaud simply after weaning – stay the property of their breeders all through the choice programme.

Breeders pay €1,000 (£864) for 5 months’ board, throughout which era the bulls are housed in a collection of equivalent open-fronted barns.

The intention of bringing all of them to 1 web site is so they’re all in the identical environmental circumstances, says Mr Mante.

The primary check is for docility. “Temperament may be very heritable and has actually improved over the 30 years we’ve got completed this check,” he says.

About 6% of bulls return to their farms through the first month. Throughout the testing interval, the bulls are weighed, measured for pelvic space – as they may switch this trait to their feminine progeny – and scored.

They’re then ranked utilizing a synthesis of estimated breeding values (EBVs) for ease of calving, development, muscle and skeletal growth, constructing on information gathered at start and at weaning.

“EBVs don’t measure every part – we nonetheless need a straight again, for instance,” says Mr Mante. “So, we give every bull a synthesis of EBVs after which validate it within the shed for useful talents.”

They’re then given one in all two {qualifications}:

  • Reproducteur jeune (RJ) for the most effective 50% of bulls examined
  • Espoit – the remaining bulls.

Bull gross sales

A sale catalogue is then produced, which can also be accessible by way of the Mon Lanaud app.

Every entry exhibits the bull’s pedigree, its EBVs and people of its mother and father, and genetic info.

There’s a distinction in sale value of about €2,500 (£2,158) between RJ bulls – 80% of which go to pedigree herds or are bought for export – and Espoit bulls, that are purchased by business breeders to enhance herd efficiency.

“Shopping for bull is an funding, but it surely’s not [like buying on] Amazon – so [we say] come and take a look at him, even when it’s not on sale day,” says Mr Rambert.

“Bulls are certified three to 4 weeks earlier than a sale, and the station is open – you don’t need to ebook.”

Promoting a bull additionally has advantages past the sale value, he provides. “In case your bull qualifies, it’s an accomplishment and a supply of satisfaction. And it’s superb in your popularity amongst patrons.

“Over the previous 5 years, we’ve had 800-1,000 suppliers, and we need to domesticate that – we don’t need to see the identical names, the identical genetics every time – we would like a broad vary of bloodlines.”

Synthetic insemination

An additional stage within the choice course of entails the most effective 36 bulls and takes place at one other testing station an hour from Le Pôle de Lanaud.

This is a crucial a part of the choice programme, says Mr Mante, and entails further analysis for feed effectivity.

From these 36, the most effective 10 are retained as bulls for synthetic insemination (AI).

Genomic testing

Indexes for 50,000 Limousin bulls are held by Ingenomix, arrange in 2010 to use genomic analysis to beef choice for the advantage of members.

Solange Fauresson, head of service, explains:

“Utilizing genetics, together with breeding practices, helps producers obtain the objective of [producing] one calf a cow a yr, which is the target of any breeder for good livestock productiveness.

“We’ve been amassing information for the reason that Sixties – birthweight, development charges, milking skill and so forth. Earlier than, this was solely listed, however now, we will use historic info with new DNA to make new predictions.”

Ingenomix receives 150-200 hair samples per week for DNA testing. Breeders pay €50 (£43) for a check for a feminine and €150 (£130) for a male.

Some further traits not out there in nationwide indexes are additionally assessed: pelvic dimension, udder morphology and interval from calving to first warmth.

Ingenomix researcher Eric Fontanillas shall be talking about utilizing genomic choice to enhance beef cattle fertility on the British Cattle Breeders’ Convention on 24 January.

Case research: GAEC Desassure, L’Etat, Cheniers, Creuse

Limousin bull with French farmers

© MAG/Judith Tooth

Farm details

  • 300ha (741 acres) in natural manufacturing
  • 30ha (74 acres) cereals, 20ha (49 acres) maize silage
  • 40ha (100 acres) everlasting pasture; remaining space in three-year grass leys
  • 170 pedigree Limousin cows, together with first-time calvers
  • Primarily autumn calving herd, calving outdoor and wintered in yards

Father-and-son group David and Jeremy Desassure farm within the rolling countryside of Creuse within the Limousin space of France.

They run a predominantly autumn-calving herd of pedigree Limousins and over the previous 20 years have invested in 10 bulls from the gross sales at Le Pôle de Lanaud to enhance herd efficiency.

Their latest bull is RJ Starsky, purchased with a neighbouring farmer for €12,200 (£10,452) on the November bull sale.

He joins RJ Rafiot, one other top-performing bull that went by the choice programme on the testing station at Lanaud.

“I’m searching for good bloodlines, maternal traits, size, energy and good stability,” says David Desassure.

“In case you purchase from farms, you get combined outcomes, however for those who purchase from Lanaud, it’s uncommon that you just don’t get good outcomes.

“These farmers who’ve purchased bulls from Lanaud through the previous 20 years have made large progress of their herds.”

Cattle are housed in winter, with cows on a ration of maize and grass silage with just a little hay and straw. Grain is saved for ending animals.

For an natural system, it could be extra economical to calve in early spring in order that calves and cows might revenue from the rising grass till weaning in August, says Mr Desassure.

That is one thing they’re contemplating, however they’re involved concerning the affect such a transfer may need on calf well being.

Presently, cows calve outdoors earlier than coming in for winter, and calves endure few well being points, whereas switching blocks would imply calving indoors, which might end in a better incidence of diarrhoea, for instance.

However, the farm’s ongoing natural standing is beneath overview as a result of natural beef costs have levelled with typical manufacturing in France.

This, together with rising enter prices and decrease natural crop yields, is threatening the viability of one of these manufacturing at L’Etat.

Cull cows

There’s good cash for cull cows, nonetheless – particularly these beneath 10 years of age – and France historically favours cow beef.

Due to ongoing funding in genetics, the Desassures are assured new generations of cows will carry out effectively and are exploiting this market by culling onerous and bringing in additional substitute heifers.

One cull cow made €7,000 (£5,997) at an public sale in Limoges in early October. She got here again to the farm for ending and was slaughtered two months later.

Unusually for French suckler herds, the Desassures use a whole lot of AI – 80% of their heifers are AI’d, in contrast with a nationwide common of 15%.

With the talents to detect warmth and inseminate, they like AI, utilizing semen from their very own bulls.

“We spend a whole lot of time selecting good bulls, and utilizing AI means we will use their semen extra broadly and nonetheless get them prepared for exhibits,” explains David.

Ending choices

Administration of bull calves has additionally modified this yr. Often, a few third of bulls are bought for breeding, one other third is castrated at 9-10 months and completed on farm, and the remaining go to northern Italy for fattening.

However, this yr, with a drop within the natural beef value, steer manufacturing has been deserted and extra cattle have been exported to Italy.

David says the adaptability of his cattle to fulfill a variety of markets means they will take such modifications of their stride.

“That’s [the] distinctive [thing] about Limousins,” he says. “In three to 4 months, you may kill something for those who want the cash. Few breeds supply this.”