The Grange herd no longer performance records, having ceased to do so in 1994. Prior to this, all animals were recorded in accordance with MLC guidelines for more than 15 years. We feel the methodology presently employed has a number of weaknesses which are inherent within the system and, therefore, the EBV’s generated are of limited value for the herd.
This view has been reinforced given the interaction which we have had with the French system over the course of the last 20 years and the fact that we have in-depth knowledge and understanding of the French system.
Due to the fact we have used only French genetics since 1992, we are in the highly unusual position that we are much closer aligned to the French national herd than we are to the British genetic base.
Taking these two points together, we have been in discussions with the French Herd Book for the exclusive provision of performance recording services for both the Grange herd and the Honesberie herd (a herd which also has exclusively used French genetics since its foundation in 2005). Both herds are sizeable with Grange numbering 95 breeding females and Honesberie currently numbering 70-75 breeding females.
Given our divergence from the British genetic base and the absence of data for both our bloodlines and individual animals, the EBV’s which are currently published on the BASCO database could be construed as being misleading to potential users.
In order to adopt the French system there has to be a high degree of genetic connectivity with the French national herd and this would, therefore, preclude almost every other herd within the UK from adopting the French methodology (if they wish to generate meaningful data.)
In our view, the French system is superior due a number of reasons, but principally:
- Dates of birth and birth weights are randomly verified by officials from the Herd Book
- Subsequent weighings are observed by independent officials from the Herd Book, thus ensuring complete accuracy of data
- At the point of weaning, all animals undergo conformation scoring by a trained official of the French Herd Book.
Taking these points together there is integrity of the data used in the calculation of EBV’s. Furthermore, the fact all animals are conformation scored ensures the physical attributes of each individual animal are reflected in the published figures, enabling a user to gain an indication of the animal’s traits prior to actually seeing the animal – something which the British figures are unable to do.
Under the French methodology, the following traits are considered as part of the conformation scoring process:
- Muscular development
- Skeletal development
- Functional abilities
- Breed characteristics.
When these scores are combined with the other necessary data (such as birth weight and subsequent weights), EBV’s can be generated for the following:
- Development of different characteristics of calves at the point of weaning
- Maternal characteristics (such as milking ability, ease of calving, etc.)
- Global indices, covering numerous different aspects of production.
All French EBV’s are based upon an average animal being awarded a score of 100, with data also provided in respect of the accuracy of each of the published figures. Furthermore, when calculating French EBV’s, they are based upon the rolling five year average of all calves born and registered for the breed – a sample population which can be in excess of 2,500,000 for specific traits, compared to an annual sample size of around 10,000 performance recorded animals in the UK. This sample size has a huge impact upon the value of the data generated.
A further benefit of the French method over the British system is that the better cattle are recognised through a classification process, based upon the performance of their progeny. Different levels of qualification are awarded, based upon production, therefore, enabling the better quality animals to be easily identified as a result of this process.