Investigating the meat quality of Boran cattle
Stockfarm|August 2020
Boran cattle have been subject to prolonged natural selection under harsh environmental conditions for centuries and are now considered an early maturing medium-frame animal. The Boran breed is known for its low production costs and the ability to produce an excellent carcass that can be marketed off the veld.
Dr Helena Theron

In South Africa, most beef calves are finished in feedlots and carcass weight is therefore a key factor when determining the price to be paid per animal. Carcasses that do not meet specifications are generally penalised. Genetic selection can be used to address traits such as undesirable carcass size or fat cover. For this reason, carcass traits should also be an important consideration when selecting beef cattle.

Determining carcass quality

The Boran Cattle Breeders’ Society undertook a test project to determine the growth and carcass quality of the Boran. The project was used to measure growth, carcass, meat quality, and conformation traits. The feed intake of individual bulls was also measured to determine their feed conversion and growth ability.

Feed conversion ratio is economically important because it quantifies feed efficiency – it, therefore, forms part of the breeding goals and selection criteria of breeders. It is here where the importance of the well-known phrase ‘You must measure to know’ really comes to the fore.

Meat quality is a vital consideration among consumers. Although environmental factors have a huge effect on meat quality, especially tenderness, the genetic basis of the end product should not be neglected as it also has a decisive impact on meat quality.

The tenderness of meat cannot be measured on a live animal, nor is it correlated with any of the other traits of the animal. Meat tenderness can therefore not be predicted by measuring any of the animal’s other traits. The only way to predict the tenderness of the meat is to measure the carcasses and to include information from genomic markers in estimated breeding values.

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