Live weight, body size and carcass characteristics of young bulls of fifteen European breeds
A total of 436 young bulls from fifteen Western European breeds, including beef, dairy and local types from five countries, were studied to assess variability in live weight, live weight gain, body measurements and carcass traits. Animals were logged indoors, and fed a diet based on concentrate and straw offered ad libitum from 9 months of age to slaughter at 15 months of age. The weight, body length, height at withers and pelvis width, of the animals were recorded at 9, 12 and 15 months of age. After slaughter, 15 carcass variables were recorded, including carcass weight, EU classification scores, morphological measurements and dissection data. Data were analysed by GLM, regression and principal component analysis procedures. Significant differences were found between breeds for all variables studied, however, the body size measurements and the carcass traits were more useful to discriminate among cattle breeds, than either live weight or daily gain. With respect to the body size and carcass traits the studied breeds could be grouped as: – Specialized beef breeds, comprising Piemontese, Asturiana de los Valles, Pirenaica, Limousin, South Devon, Charolais and Aberdeen Angus, all of which were characterized by high muscularity, wide pelvis and medium height and a low to medium level of fatness. – Local and dairy breeds, comprising Jersey, Casina, Highland, Holstein and Danish Red, the latter two breeds were tall animals, while the former three breeds were small in size. In general the group was poorly muscled and tended to have a high or medium level of fat. – Intermediate group, Avileña, Marchigiana and Simmental: these breeds were characterized by an intermediate muscle conformation and fatness level and were relatively tall. This study provides a detailed assessment or a wide range of variables in the major breeds, and several minor breeds, that are used in breeding programmes across Europe and elsewhere, and will provide information that will be of use to define breeding strategies to meet the demands of the European beef market.
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