Choosing AI bulls
ICBF has a number of tools on its website to aid with the selection of bulls and both the organisation itself and Teagasc are encouraging farmers to use them.
The ICBF is asking farmers to keep an eye on calving difficulty first off. It is advising farmer use bulls with no more than 4% calving difficulty on heifers with good reliability over 90%. For cows its advising a calving difficulty no greater than 8 per cent. It says this will help farmers keep in a system such as in spring calving where the objective is trying to produce one calf per year.
The ICBF has developed two key indexes. A replacement index use that for producing heifers and a terminal index used for producing cattle for beef.
When it comes to the replacement index have a look in particular for two things calving interval and milk. So if your suckler herd short milk you really need to look at that. The ICBF is targeting at least 5kg of an increase on the milk. It advises farmers to try and pick a positive on the milk side because it is something we are very much lacking in the suckler herd.
Calving interval is another key trait in the replacement index. It is advised that farmers try and go for a zero or negative value as you don’t want the cow to be adding days to the gestation length.
ICBF also highlights that it is important to look at the overall index score. This will give you an idea of beef traits the bull will bring as well, because it is tied in.
In terms of the terminal index you are chasing to produce cattle for beef and weanlings. Key Traits on this side are the carcass weight and the confirmation value.
Carcass weight will give you an idea of both the finished weight and also the growth potential of the animal. The ICBF says in terms of growth potential you would be looking for a score higher than 20kg as that is the average across the breeds.
Confirmation value gives the farmer a sense of how shapely the animal will be. It is advised that a farmer should chase at least a +2 score to go from and R grade cow to a U grade weanling.
Key advice when looking at AI is to choose the index you need, for what you need.