ICBF’s 2021 Beef Calving report is now available on Herdplus, ICBF has confirmed – providing farmers with data from the past year to assess and improve their herd performance.

Providing a snapshot of where one’s herd is at, and how it is doing, the reports offer a breakdown of which animals are performing – and which are “passengers”.

While members can access theirs online immediately, all reports will be posted to Beef HerdPlus members this week, the federation added.

According to the ICBF, the calving report looks at all beef calvings in the herd between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, and “allows herds to fully assess their calving performance through Key Performance Indicators [KPIs] such as calving interval, six-week calving rates etc”.

Such KPIs can be used to inform breeding and management decisions in the coming year, the organisation says.

Pointing to two KPIs in particular – calving interval and calves per cow per year – the federation notes with the first of these that the aim with your calving interval is to have it as close to 365 days as possible, adding:

“This can be difficult to achieve and requires good management as well as good genetics. Culling problem cows with average calving intervals of >390 days will help to reduce your calving interval figure.

On the calves per cow per year indicator, the ICBF highlights that a key farm goal should be to have a calf from every cow every year.

However, it notes that, as mortality at birth or soon after birth is sometimes unavoidable, a calf per cow per year can be very difficult to achieve.

One should therefore aim to have this figure as high as possible. The top 10% of herds are achieving 1.01 calves per cow per year, the federation says, adding:

“If your figure is low, then you may need to assess the reasons why. Ask yourself:

  • Am I having fertility problems and struggling to get cows back in calf?
  • Am I using bulls with high calving difficulty figures, leading to more calving problems?
  • Am I having health problems with calves in the first few weeks after birth?

In some additional advice, the ICBF says you should aim to calve as many of your heifers from 22-26 months of age.

Highlighting that only 23% of heifers are calving at this age nationally, the federation explained that if you leave heifers to run to older ages before calving, this “leads to a significant increase in the cost of bringing a heifer to her first calving”.

Farmers should also aim to have as low a number of “passenger” cows (cows not calved in the period) as possible. Noting that these cows bring down your herd’s scores, the ICBF advises to cull such animals

Finally, regarding births with a known sire and calving survey data in the beef calving reports, the ICBF says:

“It is vitally important to the genetic evaluation process that sires and calving surveys are recorded on all calves at registration.

“If you are a participant in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme, this data is compulsory. Farmers should endeavour to have these figures as high as possible.

“This data can be recorded when registering calves on agfood.ie, in the white animal events book or through a farm software package. Any missing data can be recorded, post registration, on the ICBF website,” the federation concludes.