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Docility Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs)

1 August 2015
Limousin cattle

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Research from around the world has been reviewed by Alison Glasgow now with the Limousin Society.  Her report showed animals can be bred to be more docile, particularly when handled and that animals with higher Docility EBVs were:

  • Quieter to handle and less flighty.
  • Grew faster.
  • Tended to produce heavier carcasses, partly because they had less bruising so less meat had to be cut off and rejected.
  • Their meat tended to be more tender.
  • They made more productive breeding cows, tending to have a lower age at first calving, better fertility, easier calving and more milky.

Last year Scottish abattoirs had to cut an average of 5.3 kg of meat from 0.6% of the cattle they killed.  The majority was due to bruising and the rest from abscesses.  A conservative cost would be over £20 per head as bruising was in the high priced cuts.

With all these potential advantages and the relatively simple, cost free assessment of how each animal behaves in a crush why aren’t more breeds recording it?  Of course all of them will respond that their cattle are already very docile but unfortunately we all know, sometimes to our cost, that in every breed a small percentage of animals are extremely nervous and cause major problems by upsetting their otherwise more docile colleagues.  One thing is certain.  Breeds which have Docility EBVs and use them to select quieter breeding stock will year by year have increasingly docile cattle.  As numbers of stock per man continues to increase this will become an increasingly important characteristic for which there will be a premium.  If you are convinced, pester your breed society to take action now.

Basil Lowman,

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