Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust

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Neil McGowan: Report published

2015 Scholar, Neil McGowan’s report is now available on the Nuffield International website. Below is the executive summary of his report, titled:‘Selection for efficiency: breeding better beef and sheep’.



Report Title       

Selection for efficiency: breeding better beef and sheep


Neil McGowan


Countries visited

Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland

Canada, USA, New Zealand, Australia and UK.




Objectives of the study tour: 

  1. What are the efficiencies to be gained from scale in breeding programmes?
  2. How do we select for feed efficiency in beef cattle?
  3. How do we run a bull or ram sale to encourage best practice in terms of genetic gain and animal development, resulting in genetic value for the client?



  • The best breeding programmes have clear, consistent breeding goals, based on client profitability, irrespective of the size of the programme
  • Selection for feed efficiency in beef cattle has great potential to improve profitability in the finishing sector, but the long-term effect on the cow herd is less clear
  • There are lower hanging fruit available for the UK suckler herd – fertility, longevity and cow size offer more reliable, affordable opportunities to improve efficiency
  • There is no reason why both shouldn't be selected for at the same time
  • There needs to be some form of input regulator to any output performance based breeding programme


See Neil’s report at: