Genetic parameters were estimated for cold carcase weight (CCW), carcase conformation (CON), carcase fat class (FAT), age at slaughter (AGE) and average daily carcase gain (ADCG) in 14 common UK breeds of cattle. These included crossbred animals but purebred datasets were also analysed for the most populous sire-breeds. Heritability estimates for beef breeds that were significant ranged from 0.24 to 0.44, 0.12 to 0.35, 0.12 to 0.36, 0.15 to 0.38 and 0.26 to 0.43 for CCW, CON, FAT, AGE and ADCG, respectively. For Holstein-Friesian, a dairy breed, heritability estimates were consistently lower than most beef breeds with estimates of 0.12, 0.13, 0.13, 0.06 and 0.15 for CCW, CON, FAT, AGE and ADCG, respectively. In all breed groups, genetic correlations were positive between CCW, CON and ADCG. In general, genetic correlations were moderate between CCW and CON (0.13 to 0.77), moderate to strong between CCW and ADCG (0.57 to 0.98) and weak or moderate between CON and ADCG (0.12 to 0.82). Genetic correlations for FAT with CCW (− 0.20 to − 0.42) and CON (− 0.16 to − 0.52) tended to be negative in the beef breed but were positive in the dairy breed, although not significant between CCW and FAT. For most beef breeds genetic correlations between AGE and carcase traits were not significant with the exceptions of AGE and CCW for Simmental (− 0.15) and Salers (− 0.24), AGE and CON for Limousin (0.15) and Simmental (0.14) and AGE and FAT from three sire-breeds (− 0.17 to − 0.35). However, the correlation between AGE and ADCG was negative and moderate to strong in magnitude (− 0.23 to − 0.67) in all beef breeds as expected since faster-growing animals reach slaughter age earlier. For Holstein-Friesian, all genetic correlations with AGE were negative and moderate to strong. Genetic correlations indicate that selection for increased carcase weight should simultaneously increase growth rate and improve conformation in all breeds and reduce carcase fatness in the majority of beef breeds. The results indicate that there is genetic variation in all five traits suitable for undertaking genetic improvement of carcase traits and age at slaughter; however, there are apparent breed differences. The use of abattoir-derived phenotypes for undertaking genetic improvement is an example where the supply chain can work together to share information to enable the cattle industry to move forward.
- Genetic parameters