The current high rate of caesarean sections (>90%) in double-muscled (DM) cattle, such as Belgian Blue and Verbeterd Roodbont, has led to increased public concerns in the Netherlands. The first objective of this study was to gain insight into the economic effects of the goal of having 50% natural births, compared to the current economic situation of DM cattle breeds in the Netherlands. The second objective of this study was to investigate what the main obstacles and/or possibilities are for DM cattle farmers to aim for more natural calving in DM cattle.
In this study it is found that economics could hardly be the main motive for DM cattle farmers to breed towards more natural calving in DM cattle. It is expected that 50% natural calving is feasible in an economic sense only, when DM cattle farmers gain more experience with natural calving in DM cattle. The majority (72%) of DM cattle farmers preferred the caesarean section above natural calving, but on the other hand most DM cattle farmers are aware that society could fail to appreciate the routine caesarean section in the future. Therefore, it seems that social pressure is the most important non-economic motive to change the current breeding goal for DM cattle farmers.
A major step towards more natural calving is made when the main obstacle, the uncertainties related to natural calving, are reduced by insights obtained by breeding and further research. Furthermore, more data has to come available regarding natural calving. Measuring the pelvic area of animals and publishing information of artificial insemination-bulls regarding natural calving are important tools to get more reliable data. When at the end, retailers are willing to pay more for beef products of DM cattle that are born naturally, DM cattle farmers have sufficient possibilities and reasons to decrease the number of caesarean sections in the long run. However, DM cattle farmers do have the responsibility themselves to reduce the number of caesarean sections in DM cattle and with that, to make them less controversial.
Student Joost Huijbregts
Supervisors Dr. Ir. E. Bokkers (APS) Dr.Ir. M. Mourits (BEC)