In total, 35% of beef pedigree calves born in Ireland in 2015 were bred from foreign sires, statistics from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) show.

These foreign sires originated from 11 different countries, with the UK and France proving to be the two main sources of foreign sires for beef pedigree matings.

Sires from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the US were also used in beef pedigree matings in Ireland in 2015.

Almost 90% of all pedigree beef calves come from five breeds; Limousin, Charolais, Angus, Hereford and Simmental, the figures show.

Breeds such as Aubrac, Blonde D’Aquitaine, Belgian Blue, Parthenaise, Piedmontese, Saler and Shorthorn made up the remaining 10% of pedigree beef calves.

Within the various beef breeds the proportion of calves sired by foreign sires varied hugely, ICBF statistics show.

The lowest percentage of foreign sire usage was seen in Herefords at just 13%, while the largest proportion was seen in Belgian Blue with a total of 82%. 

With regards to dairy pedigree calves, 49% are bred from foreign sires from 16 different countries, with the USA and the Netherlands leading the way, according to the ICBF.

Most Popular AI Bulls in 2015

Meanwhile in 2015, AI straws from Limousin bulls proved to be the most popular used on beef herds, figures from the ICBF show.

In the most popular beef AI bulls in 2015, the Limousin breed takes up five places.

Limousin was followed closely by Charolais, with a Simmental and Aberdeen Angus bull making up the the top 10.

Meanwhile, the Holstein breed dominated the most popular dairy AI bulls used in 2015.

The league tables for both the beef and dairy AI bulls used last year was published by the ICBF and features the top 50 bulls in each category.

A common trend that was also reported recently by several cattle breeding companies was the increased use of beef AI sires on dairy herds.

By using beef AI sires, dairy farmers are looking to increase cash flow in the spring time by getting the most value for their calves.

Beef sired calves can make up to €350-400/head at three-four weeks old, in comparison a dairy sired calf might only make between €70-100 at the same age, according to Enda Dooley from Dovea Genetics.

Beef sires that are easy calving with a short gestation period are proving most popular with dairy farmers, as they try to get their cows back milking as quick as possible, Dooley said.