More questions answered on Beef Data and Genomics Programme

Department of Agriculture has issued an updated FAQ note in response to various technical questions received by applicants.

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme is a six year long programme for suckler farmers.

To be eligible, applicants must by over 18 and have a valid herd number, or have applied for a herd number by the closing date of the programme.

Recently the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) compiled a list of the 10 most frequently asked questions relating to the scheme.

The Department of Agriculture has created a list of further questions and answers about the scheme, here are 15 of them:

  • In order to qualify for the scheme, does the bull have to be purchased within the time frame of the scheme?

No, a bull is eligible provided that he has been genotyped and given a 4 or 5 star rating on either the Terminal or Replacement index.

  • What about pedigree breeder using his own replacement bull from his own herd?

Pedigree bulls retained on the holding for breeding will be eligible, provided that they meet the stock bull requirement (genotyped 4 or 5 star on either replacement or terminal index, on either a within or across breed basis)

  • For AI-bred progeny, how do we define 80% AI?

This calculation will be based on progeny rather than recorded inseminations. The Department will count the number of progeny born from AI sires during the course of the scheme and the percentage of these that are from 4 & 5 star AI sires. This latter figure is expected to be greater than 80%.

  • What about farmers that are using both AI bulls and stock bulls?

In such circumstances, farmers must be compliant with both requirements.

  • How will we define a stock bull come 30 June 2019?

A stock bull will be defined as being one of the bulls in service on the herd on or after June 30 2019. This stock bull must be at least 12 months of age on the date of compliance i.e. June 30 2019.

  • How can I estimate the €uro-Star index of a potential mating? For example, I have a 2.5 star cow, if I serve her with a 5 star bull, what will the resulting mating be on replacement index?

The average replacement index for cows is currently €114 (2.5 stars). If I cross this cow with a bull that is €161 on replacement index (5 stars), then the replacement index of the resultant progeny will be (€114+€161)/2 = €137.5.

The cut-off for eligibility for the scheme is greater than or equal to €126 on replacement index (i.e., top 40%). Therefore, assuming that indexes do not change considerably between the time of insemination and time of genotyping the resultant progeny (about 12 months), then this animal should be eligible.

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  • If I buy a 5 star bull and he drops to 2 stars, how will this affect the compliance status of my stock bull and also any resultant replacement females?

Once a bull is purchased as genotyped 4 and 5 stars on either the replacement or terminal index (within or across breed), then he retains that status for the purposes of payment for the duration of the scheme.

However, all resultant females will be assessed based on their own genetic merit, which will be a combination of the bull’s most up to date genetic evaluations and also information from the dam, and from the female herself (based on her own submitted DNA and also animal performance).

Therefore it is not correct to say that once a farmer has an eligible bull, he will have eligible female progeny. Rather farmers need to take a number of factors into consideration when generating female replacements, for example, the genetic merit of the dams, the latest genetic merit for the stock bull and the potential use of AI (as these bulls should have a higher index and with higher reliability).

  • Are all calves from an AI sire 5 star and are all calves from a pedigree bull at least 4 star?

No, every animal has its own unique star rating at birth based on its own DNA, that of its ancestry.

  • I have no idea what star ratings my cows have and I am worried if my cows have all low stars.

On entry to the scheme you will be given data relating to €uro-Star values of cows in your herd, how many animals you will be required to test each year and how many replacements you will need to bring in to meet the requirement in 2018.

It is important to note that heifers aged over 16 months are taken into consideration also so not all of the replacements will have to be calved by the deadline. If we were to fast forward and look at the herds tested as part of the 2014 pilot scheme, up to 50% of participating herds could currently meet the 20% (2018) replacement requirement.

  • My system is based on purchasing first cross heifers from the dairy herd. Will I have to stop doing this and breed from within the herd?

No, you will not have to change your system. A high proportion of heifers coming from the dairy herd are four or five star-rated stemming from favourable milk and fertility traits.

We are looking at encouraging dairy farmers to record sire data or genotype bulls moving into herds so that we will be able to link heifers to sire data through genotyping at a later stage.

  • Farmers are required to provide a large range of data through the programme. Will they have access to HerdPlus data for free or will they be required to pay to view their data?

The results of the genotyping and the information that farmers will need to ensure they can comply with the scheme requirements will be provided to all farmers in the scheme.

  • The genotyping requirement is 60% of their herd. Please explain this?

Each herd will have a number of eligible cows on which its payment is based (i.e., the number of suckler cows with a calving on the farm in 2014). This number of cows defines the level of genotyping that will be undertaken on the farm.

The number to be genotyped will be 60% of the number of eligible cows for each year of the scheme. Therefore in a herd with 20 eligible cows, the scheme will be genotyping 12 animals per year.

This is higher than the number last year, as last years scheme was simply focused on undertaking the research to be able to produce genomic evaluations.

For the scheme to work effectively we now need to use these genomic evaluations on all potential breeding animals within scheme herds. This works out at about 60% of all animals.

In the example provided above, the participant must retain 12 breeding animals, i.e. cows, calves, heifers and bulls that have not been previously genotyped, for genotyping each year

  • How much will I have to pay for genotyping?

The cost of the genotyping service is currently under tender. A final figure will not be known until later this year. However, it is expected to be lower than the €30 cost last year.

  • Can I use the white card as part of the scheme and then update the sire and calving data as part of the subsequent survey forms?

No. Initial calving events must be recorded via either; agfood.ie, farm management systems, and Animal Events.

This is to maximise the accuracy of data recording (i.e., at the time of the event) and also improve the efficiency of data collection as part of the scheme.

However, some of the calves that have been born in 2015 prior to the launch of the Programme will already have been registered using a white card and so additional information will be required for these animals.

  • Who pays for the genotyping?

The cost of genotyping will be netted from the farmer payment at each relevant payment run.

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