Creed confirms department looking at dairy-beef DNA testing

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, confirmed that his department is looking into the possibility of DNA testing to identify the true parentage of calves.

He added that he was making moves to introduce a dairy-beef breed index, which, he said, is part of the same “journey” towards transparency.

Speaking at the recent annual general meeting of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), the minister said: “There is a big problem ringside in marts throughout the country. Whether it’s a calf-to-beef operator here, or it’s the exporter of calves, people are buying a bit of a pig in a poke.”

However, the minister highlighted the challenges to introducing DNA testing, namely the two-week waiting period for DNA testing to be completed.

“We have looked at the possibility of DNA testing, and the challenge is to turn around the data as quickly as possible, because you don’t want to create a welfare issue on farms that don’t have the capacity to hold calves long-term,” said Minister Creed.

He added: “The time is approximately a fortnight, and we’re looking to see how we can swipe that down if possible, but at the moment, I think it’s slightly too long in terms of turning around the DNA testing.”

The minister added that there is an international trade aspect to calf origins.

“I have been accosted at international level by people who bought Irish calves, who give out about what they bought and what they thought they bought.

But I do think, for those who are in calf-to-beef, to have any prospect of success, they really need to know what they’re buying.

Commenting on plans for a dairy-beef breed index, Minister Creed said it’s a “journey along the same roadway, so that, say you’re a dairy farmer, you need your 20% replacements”.

“Well, after that, the dairy industry can’t absolve itself from its responsibility in respect of the growing number of calves coming into the system, and how they are undermining, at a whole lot of levels, the profitability, and creating problems that could result in welfare issues,” he added.

He concluded: “The dairy industry is aware of this. This is an issue that they can’t walk away from, so promoting this dairy-beef breed index is a part of that.”