Most measurements for beef improvement in South Africa are per individual (weaning weight, calving interval, growth rate, etc.). A measurement that expresses performance per constant unit, e.g. kilogram calf weaned per Large Stock Unit (LSU) can eventually be translated to kilogram calf produced per kg CO2 equivalent. A LSU is defined as a bovine requiring 75 MJ Metabolisable Energy (ME) per day. If more kilogram weaner calf can be produced per LSU (KgC/LSU), the carbon footprint of beef can be reduced. This study used breed average values to investigate the KgC/LSU for the 30 beef and dual purpose breeds in South Africa. The breeds were categorized in the following breed types: Sanga (indigenous to South Africa) Sanga derived, Zebu, Zebu derived, British and European. No relationship was found between cow weights and KgC/LSU, indicating that it is independent of cow weight between breeds. However, when the data is summarized into breed types, the Sanga and European breed types produce the least KgC/ LSU and Sanga derived breed types the most. This high value of the Sanga derived breeds is probably due to retained heterosis. Composite breeds are mostly intermediate to parental breeds for individual traits but superior for composite traits and KgC/LSU is a composite trait. These calculations were only done on breed averages. A genetic analysis on a breed level to estimate genetic parameters for this trait, and its genetic correlations with other traits now needs to be done before a decision can be taken whether selection for KgC/LSU will be feasible. The ultimate aim with a trait like this is to reduce the carbon footprint of weaner calf production since more kilogram calf will be produced per LSU (constant feed unit).
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Mokolobate, M. , Scholtz, M. , Mulugeta, S. and Neser, F. (2013) Report on a breeding objective that may reduce the carbon footprint of extensive cow-calf production systems. Natural Science
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