ICBF Conference: The WHPR programme and its future

Pedigree breeders who part take in the Whole Herd Performance Recording (WHPR) programme voluntarily get their herds independently assessed by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF).

All calves, heifers, bulls and cows are weighed and inspected; herds also receive checks from the ICBF to validate the herd’s data.

The programme aims to provide the most up-to-date and accurate information available to farmers. The more pedigree breeders that get their herd performance recorded, the more accurate the €uro-Star system becomes for all farmers.

Speaking at the ICBF Conference in Athlone recently, the ICBF’s Pat Donnellan outlined the programme’s objectives and challenges, and highlighted some of the future plans.

“In Ireland, there are a couple of things that are really unique. There are small herd sizes, so therefore, we only have a small window of opportunity to get in there and record information on these beef pedigree animals.

“We only have a small window and if we don’t try to record as much as we can on the pedigree progeny of the pedigree bull, we’re not going to find out much about him.

“Animals may be culled due to docility or due to poor quality, or some bulls could be sold to the UK for breeding. So, we need to get in there and get all the information and get accurate information.

“Accurate data is obviously what we are chasing from these pedigree herds. We need the data to be accurate as this is the bedrock that the commercial farmers are going to use,” he explained.

Once a farmer has voluntarily agreed to take part in the programme, all of the farmer’s young bulls are automatically put up for sale on the ICBF Stockbull Finder. This is an online bull sales section on the ICBF website, on which only bulls from WHPR herds will be included.

On the website, a bull’s €uro-Star details will be displayed along with the breeder’s contact details and there is a facility for breeders to upload a photo of the bull.

“We need as many pedigree breeders in the programme as possible and we have to make the most of it,” Pat added.

“Another bit of data that is very scarce is cow weight data; this is crucial and this is why we are weighing cows in these WHPR herds.”

Programme uptake

Pat outlined that 650-660 herds are involved in the programme. And, if you take that there are 1,600 beef pedigree herds, that amounts to 40%.

Continuing, he said: “Approximately 20% of the beef pedigree cows are in the WHPR. But, as a target we need to get up over 50%.

“The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme has come at a crucial time for the WHPR and it could make a huge difference to raising these numbers as well. It will provide more awareness out there among breeders.”

The future

Touching on the future, Pat outlined that driving on the success of the Stockbull Finder will be a priority. He also discussed a report that will indicate the progress of a herd.

“It will provide a little more detail and fill the breeder with more motivation after they have gone to the trouble of getting a visit done,” he explained.

He also noted the importance of genotyping. He said: “WHPR herds are genotyping, but there is room for improvement. We need to increase the number of genotyped animals in these herds; it is very important.

“I’ll do anything I can to promote this to breeders, so they can get rewards out of it and the breeder is absolutely key to the success of this programme,” he concluded.