The performance test of beef bulls is carried out at the barn of Animal Breeders´ Association of Estonia (ETKÜ) in Rapla County, Keava in cooperation with Estonian Beef Cattle Breeders´ Association since 2006. The aim of the testing is to find out the production potential of the offspring of breeding bulls used in Estonian herds, ensuring uniform housing conditions for growth and taking into account the specifics of feeding needs of different breeds. The performance test lasts from November to April and ends with the championship to find out the best bulls and a bull auction.
PERFORMANCE TEST OF ESTONIAN BEEF BULLS AND ITS CONDUCT
The performance test of beef bulls is carried out at the barn of Animal Breeders´ Association of Estonia in Rapla County, Keava in cooperation with Estonian Beef Cattle Breeders´ Association, and animals belonging to the members of the society can participate in the test.
The performance test has been conducted since 2006 and a maximum 50 bulls can participate. If more than 50 bulls would like to participate, the proportion of breeds and the number of bulls will be determined according to the breed population and the number of animals registered in the herdbook.
Over time, the number of bulls participating in the test, the conditions under which they are conducted and the ownership have varied. At the beginning, all bulls were sold to ETKÜ but from 2019 the bulls belong to the owners until the end of the test period.
The representatives of the five most common beef cattle breeds in Estonia have participated in the performance tests – Aberdeen-Angus, Hereford, Limousine, Blonde-Aquitaine, Charolee and Simmental.
The aim of the testing is to find out the production potential of the offspring of breeding bulls used in Estonian herds by ensuring uniform housing conditions for growth and taking into account the specifics of the feeding needs of different breeds. In this way, the most reliable comparative data on feed intake, gain and economic efficiency based on genetic potential are obtained, as the effects of the difference due to the variety in environmental conditions are maximally excluded. In addition, the conformation of the bulls and their suitability for breeding are also evaluated.
At the end of the performance test, the feed consumption and growth rate of the participating bulls are calculated, as well as the time to maturity for the slaughter, which determines the economic efficiency of a particular animal.
The performance test starts in November and ends in the second week of April of the following year, depending on the year approximately for 161 days. Bulls born between January and April of the same year are eligible to participate. If necessary and at the request of the owners, special agreements regarding the extension of the age limit are always possible.
- At the beginning and end of the test, the liveweights of the bulls are recorded and bulls are weighed every 2 weeks during the test period.
- The results of the weighing (every 2 weeks, the live weight and the gain from the previous weighing is recorded) are forwarded to the owners and published on the ETKÜ and ELKS websites from 2020 onwards.
- According to the owners, it is also possible: genome testing; testing for inheritable genetic diseases; incl. testing of the polled gene in horned breeds and double muscle testing in Angus. All bulls undergo socialization and halter training (at the request of the owner).
- At the end of the performance test, the championship will be held to find out the best bulls and the bull auction.
Young bulls are fed ad libitum total mixed ratio (TMR) and 2 different rations are used depending on the breed: for extensive breeds (Ab, Hf) with a low proportion of concentrates (the amount depends on the parameters of the silage analysis) and intensive breeds (Li, Ba, Ch, Si) with a higher proportion of concentrates.
The ration is prepared and its compliance is checked and corrected by dr. Meelis Ots, Associate Professor of Nutrition and Nutrition Physiology, Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Husbandry, Estonian University of Life Sciences
At the age of 1 year, all bulls are classified linearly and their scores are added to the animal’s card. What is linear estimation, read here.
As the fertility of future potential breeding bulls is very important, the testicular circumference of the bulls is measured at the end of the period. At a certain age, the circumference of the testicles must correspond to specified minimum dimensions, which helps to evaluate bull´s fertility.
All bulls must come from herds which have participated in the national disease control programs and there have been no cases of paratuberculosis.
The bull sent for performance testing must be tested for: Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IRT Ak); Bovine viral diarrhea (VVD Ag); Leptospirosis.
Before being sent to the test group, treatment against internal and external parasites and ringworm, general health assessment, incl. inspection of the feet and hooves must be done and followed by the relevant veterinary report.
All bulls must be:
- Purebred; come from a performance testing herd; born in Estonia; previously weaned and trained to eat supplementary feed (starter, cereals, etc.).
- The blood samples must be sent to the Veterinary and Food Laboratory (Kreutzwaldi 30, Tartu 51006). ETKÜ submits a list to the Veterinary and Food Laboratory for examination of all samples, but each owner pays for the test results.
- Transport to Keava is arranged by the animal owner. In the case of joint transport, the owner shall pay the corresponding amount for his animal.
- All bulls and their parents must have undergone a genetic expertise to verify pedigree, at the expense of the animal owner. Genetic expertise is performed in the Genetics Laboratory of Estonian University of Life Sciences (Kreutzwaldi 46, 51006 Tartu, 2nd floor).
- The cost of one feeding day per animal is 3.- € + VAT;
A written agreement is concluded between the animal owner and the ETKÜ for the period of the test period.