Visual Image analysis (VIA) of carcass traits provides the opportunity to estimate carcass primal cut yields on large numbers of slaughter animals. This allows carcases to be better differentiated and farmers to be paid based on the primal cut yields. It also creates more accurate genetic selection due to high volumes of data which enables breeders to breed cattle that better meet the abattoir specifications and market requirements. In order to implement genetic evaluations for VIA primal cut yields, genetic parameters must first be estimated and that was the aim of this study. Slaughter records from the UK prime slaughter population for VIA carcass traits was available from two processing plants. After edits, there were 17 765 VIA carcass records for six primal cut traits, carcass weight as well as the EUROP conformation and fat class grades. Heritability estimates after traits were adjusted for age ranged from 0.32 (0.03) for EUROP fat to 0.46 (0.03) for VIA Topside primal cut yield. Adjusting the VIA primal cut yields for carcass weight reduced the heritability estimates, with estimates of primal cut yields ranging from 0.23 (0.03) for Fillet to 0.29 (0.03) for Knuckle. Genetic correlations between VIA primal cut yields adjusted for carcass weight were very strong, ranging from 0.40 (0.06) between Fillet and Striploin to 0.92 (0.02) between Topside and Silverside. EUROP conformation was also positively correlated with the VIA primal cuts with genetic correlation estimates ranging from 0.59 to 0.84, whereas EUROP fat was estimated to have moderate negative correlations with primal cut yields, estimates ranged from −0.11 to −0.46. Based on these genetic parameter estimates, genetic evaluation of VIA primal cut yields can be undertaken to allow the UK beef industry to select carcases that better meet abattoir specification and market requirements.
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Incorporating novel data-driven approaches into cattle genetic improvement programmes leads to better animal performance and overall economic gains