Beef genomics evaluation deferred until August

The roll-out of beef genomics evaluations by Teagasc and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) has been deferred until August.

According to the ICBF, this is because of a desire from the wider beef breeding industry, such as AI companies, herdbooks and suckler farmers, to have genomics for female fertility included in the evaluation.

“The alternative was to go with genomics for all traits except female fertility, and add the genomics for female fertility in for August,” an ICBF statement said.

“However, the industry meeting [on Monday 25 April] felt that it would be better for farmers and the industry if we introduced all changes at once so as to minimise the extent of changes that farmers see in the short term.”

ICBF advises that until the August evaluation, if farmers need to pick heifers or bulls, then pick the highest Euro-star ratings available from the current evaluations, based on the relevant index.

“The majority of animals will not move [ratings] significantly.  Even after genomics is introduced, Euro-star ratings for animals will change as animals get more data/performance records in the system and as our genomic evaluation systems improve in the future,” the statement said.

The beef genomic evaluation is part of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), launched by the Department of Agriculture in May 2015.

About 29,000 farmers applied for the scheme, which will run for six years.

The main objective of the scheme is to encourage the introduction of animals of a higher genetic merit into the national beef herd.

By improving the quality and efficiency of the suckler herd it will reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of beef production in Ireland by improving production efficiency on suckler farms.

The scheme works on the principle that increasing the genetic merit of the suckler herd through the Eurostar programme, which is run by the ICBF, will result in more cattle a year and less greenhouse gases per livestock unit.

As part of the scheme, the genetic merit of the national beef herd is assessed through the collection of data and genotypes of selected animals, which will allow for the application of genomic selection in the beef herd.

Earlier this month it was reported that almost 10,000 farmers are yet to receive payments under the programme.

According to the latest update from the Department, 29,865 applications were received for the scheme in 2015, of which 4,435 have withdrawn.

To date, payments amounting to some €37m have been issued to more 20,000 applicants.