The French Limousin selection system has evolved over many years. Animals are evaluated on a range of traits and given a beef and maternal index.
The beef index comprises growth, muscle, skeletal, carcass weight, conformation and kill out.
The maternal index comprises growth, muscle, skeletal, fertility, calving ability, and milk.
Twelve young bulls are selected annually (after vigorous pre selection on all traits including functionality and docility). 150 inseminations are done by each of the bulls. Bull fertility is the first record. The progeny are taken to the performance stations (Pepieux for Bulls, and Moussours for Heifers).
The progeny bulls are brought to slaughter. Information collected includes growth rates, scoring, feed efficiency, carcass, conformation, fat, and kill out. Recently there has been more focus on fat to achieve marbling and fat cover. Typical kill out is 62%.
In Moussours the progeny heifers are performance rated over an extended period. They are inseminated at 15 months to calve at two years. Information collected includes docility, pregnancy rate, fertility, scoring, calving ease, pelvic size and opening, milk, calf growth.
Any tested bull will be five years old before complete results are available, the best bulls are kept for AI and continue to be performance monitored.
This progeny testing program is government supported and subject to independent verification.
In France most farmers use stock bulls, AI accounts for only about 15% of beef inseminations. The main market for French Limousin AI is export.
In addition to the main progeny testing program there is a polled and double muscle program.
The polled program has been in existence for 15 years. This program involves crossing polled cows with beefy bulls. Polled animals in general have less growth, less weight, lower conformation, tend to be darker in colour, have a more pointed head and slanty eyes. Also found is that the polled gene does not always pass as expected for instance the presence of scurs blocks the polled gene.
The double muscle program has been going on for some time. The problem with double muscle is that it can pass both good and bad. When bad it gives rise to such as severe calving problems, no milk, no growth. It has not yet been possible to suppress the risk of these bad traits.
Pierre Roi from the French progeny testing program says there is no perfect strategy to pedigree breeding, the most important thing is to have a goal for your herd. How you cross and mix should be to achieve that goal.
Bulls suggested by Pierre were
- Urville for milk and fertility best on mature cows
- On-Dit for beef, milk and fertility best on mature cows
- Usse a good outcross, good beef carcass (progeny kill out better than they look live) and good on milk, ok for calving ease. Suited to dams with power
- Apex good on growth, for milk and size
- UT-Majeur will give power, beef and fertility. Poor on milk and best suited to mature cows
- Anecdote for milk and heifers
- Azzuri for fertility
- Tastevin for milk
- Valerian for milk and beef, best on mature cows
- Neuf very correct and good on calving
- Ozeus good on calving and milk but limited growth
- Roesti out of Highlander good on maternal but not beefy
- Bial very beefy and early maturing, but no semen at present