Department plans dairy beef genotyping programme

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has confirmed to AgriLand that it is looking at dairy beef genotyping as a means of integrating supply from the dairy sector.

A spokesperson said that the department will work in conjunction with Teagasc, the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), Animal Health Ireland (AHI) and industry representatives to allow the two sectors to work together on the plans.

It follows on from Minister Michael Creed’s comments at the recent Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association annual general meeting, where he said his department would be looking at the possibility of DNA testing to identify the true lineage of a calf.

The department, in conjunction with Teagasc, the ICBF, AHI and the meat and dairy processing industries are currently examining greater integration in the supply of beef from the dairy herd to complement the existing supply of high-quality beef from the suckler herd.

“This involves looking at areas in which the dairy industry can work together with the beef industry to improve the quality of beef coming from the dairy herd through improved breeding, calf rearing and management practices and the genotyping of beef progeny from the dairy herd,” according to the spokesperson.

This includes “examining the feasibility of DNA-based calf registration”.

‘Pig in a poke’

Speaking at the ICSA AGM (February 7), 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.”

“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,” he added.

Minister Creed highlighted that the turnaround time for DNA data, which currently stands at approximately two weeks, would have to be reduced if the plans are to be effective.