Why clear identification of polled genetics is required


Disbudding calves is a difficult and costly job and, as herds scale up and calving patterns tighten, it may put large monetary and time strain on beef farmers.

But, whereas many are eager to get rid of the necessity for disbudding by deciding on bulls assured to supply solely polled calves, figuring out these genes is much from easy.

This is as a result of breed societies don’t use a standard identification system, says beef specialist Basil Lowman of SAC Consulting.

See additionally: Advice for lowering reliance on soya in suckler beef methods

He insists this should change; if not, the business dangers obligatory regulation on polling because of strain from shoppers on meat patrons.

He factors to latest adjustments to dairy bull calf euthanasia, with milk patrons requiring their suppliers to rear these animals for a minimal time period.

“Disbudding in a beef state of affairs is far more dangerous than in a dairy system as a result of the suckling calf have to be separated from its mom [during the procedure].

“Try taking a child calf off its mom – it’s harmful,” he says.

“We are on the stage the place business breeders are getting fearful about utilizing horned genetics as a result of herds are getting greater.

“It shouldn’t be unusual now to have a beef herd of 200 animals, even 500, which implies disbudding all their calves over only a two-month interval.”

Call for united motion

Mr Lowman is looking for a single system, simply understood by beef farmers, to determine the 2 several types of polled bull. And he needs the business to unite to ship this.

At current, how the polled standing of bulls is proven at gross sales is determined by the breed.

“I don’t imagine there’s a breed society that’s caring for its potential patrons and insisting that the complete genetic standing of the polled bull is said at society gross sales,” says Mr Lowman.

“Some solely determine bulls which are polled by the letter P displayed as a capital letter after the bull’s title within the sale catalogue.”

Polled and horned genes

This creates a threat for patrons as a result of polling in cattle is managed by two genes. If an animal is born with one polled and one horned gene, or with two polled genes, will probably be polled.

A bull with two polled genes is known as homozygous, whereas one with one horned gene and one polled gene is called heterozygous.

The heterozygous bull will probably be born polled as a result of that is the dominant gene. Yet when this bull is used on horned cows, solely about half of his calves will probably be polled.

“This implies that all of his progeny will nonetheless must be checked for indicators of a horn bud,” says Mr Lowman.

The confusion in figuring out the precise genetic mixture of genes, he suggests, is considerably delaying the event of a polled UK beef herd.


Some breed societies are making progress. The British Simmental Cattle Society included a information to polling and its terminology in its Stirling Simmental Sale catalogue this yr.

“This could be very a lot a primary and vital step in serving to patrons at gross sales across the topic of polled [genetics],” says its common supervisor, Iain Kerr.

Proposed polling identification system

Beef specialist Basil Lowman of SAC Consulting is proposing the next common identification system:

  • P (capital letter) = polled gene
  • h (lower-case) = horned gene
  • PP = homozygous polled bull
  • Ph = heterozygous polled bull

As all of the calves sired by a PP bull could be polled, it might be justifiable for a breeder to cost a major premium above their genetic worth as a result of the necessity, price and hazard of disbudding could be eradicated, says Mr Lowman.

“I’ve loads of sympathy for farmers, and the largest assist we can provide them is to have the 2 sorts of polled genetics clearly identifiable, in a single widespread language.”

To drive change, he advises patrons to all the time ask the vendor whether or not the bull is homozygous or heterozygous.

“If it hasn’t been examined, so the customer doesn’t know, don’t purchase it. It is the one manner issues will change, though polling isn’t the one consideration – every little thing else must be proper too,” he says.

“Numerous breeders take a look at genomically for double muscling – why not add polling to that checklist?”

Case examine: Hall Farm, Rugby

Andrew and James Barnes with Simmental bull

James and Andrew Barnes g British Simmental Cattle Society

Farm Facts

  • 324ha (800 acres)
  • 150-cow herd of pedigree polled Simmentals
  • February-March calving, with herd then out at grass till November
  • Breeding animals reared on silage-based whole blended ration
  • Bulls destined for slaughter grown on a extra intensive ration to complete at 12-14 months at common 400-420kg deadweight and graded at largely R+ and U+

Some breeders have already made the transfer in the direction of a completely homozygous polled herd.

Brothers Andrew and James Barnes, of the Highcross Simmental herd, had been producing beef from quite a lot of breeds in a business system at Hall Farm, close to Rugby, earlier than they purchased many of the Lopemede Simmental herd in 2018.

That herd, bred by John Rixon, was one of many first and largest polled Simmental herds within the nation, developed by sourcing polled genetics from Denmark and slowly progressing the herd in that path.

With these cows, and 5 inventory bulls additionally acquired from Mr Rixon, the Barneses have now developed a pedigree polled Simmental herd.

All bulls used within the system are DNA-tested to make sure they’ve the proper polling genes.

Saving time

Andrew says eliminating the job of dehorning has many benefits. “It is a time saving of no less than 10 minutes a calf and it removes the stress from the animals and folks.

“After the calf is born, all now we have to do is put an ear tag in, jot down its intercourse and weight, that’s it.”

Although the herd is pedigree, it’s run to business ideas. Heifers are bulled at 15 months to calve at two years.

All cows are served naturally, with the ratio of cows to a bull various in line with the scale of paddock, however largely about 35 cows to a senior bull and 25-26 to a junior bull.

The finest heifer calves are stored as replacements and others offered for breeding or fattened. Bulls are chosen in line with their potential.

“We choose greater than we’re prone to promote and people who don’t make the grade are fattened,” Andrew explains.

Carcass high quality

Some of the cows within the Highcross herd are polled going again many generations.

Andrew says there may be false impression {that a} polled animal produces an inferior carcass, and that should change.

There can nonetheless be a stigma hooked up to polled bulls and it may be troublesome for some beef farmers to see past that, he says.

“If you possibly can produce the identical high quality calf, slaughtered on the identical age, why would you select to supply an animal that it’s important to dehorn?

“I’ve by no means met anybody who’s utilizing polled bulls who would ever return to dehorning,” he says.