A range of maternal trait EBVs have been developed for Scotland's hardy hill cattle breed, the Luing.

Speaking at an open day workshop at Incheoch, breed development officer, Neil McGowan who has been gathering a range of data from his Dirnanean herd from Alyth, Perthshire, for the past six years, said variations in the genetic strengths for milking ability, calving interval and longevity were of particular interest and would help with future breeding decisions.

“The time is right for Luing breeders to get involved with recording, as the range of maternal trait EBVs now available means that resulting figures were a good fit with the breed objectives of a hardworking, thrifty suckler cow,” said Mr McGowan.

Mr McGowan, a recent Nuffield Farming Scholar, who has visited herds of many breeds across the world with similar breeding goals to the Luing, added that many of these herds were focused on breeding hardy, fertile, efficient cattle – and they all used EBVs to help maintain a balanced breeding programme.

Ailish Ross from Signet, pointed out the genetic importance of specific attributes you can’t see in an animal and that breeding superior maternal cattle is more complicated than terminal sires. She said many of the economically important traits within the suckler herd to include milk, longevity and ease of calving are impossible to assess visually.

However, she added that with an accurate pedigree and information on performance, Estimated Breeding Values can be created for a range of different traits which could be combined into breeding indexes to meet a range of needs.

This is valuable information within a modern breeding programme, although a degree of caution and common sense is required when interpreting EBVs for maternal traits as accuracy values will always tend to be lower for those traits that are only expressed by a bull’s female relatives, she said.

Signet's Sam Boon highlighted the importance of medium-framed cows in the uplands and the need for cattle that are able to maintain body condition and fertility in a harsh environment. He also suggested that further work is done to monitor cow mature size to ensure these attributes are retained and through improvements in calf growth rate to enhance the overall efficiency of the Luing breed in the future.