Exploiting genetics is one of the key stands at Grange next week at the Beef 2014 open day.

According to Noirin McHugh, Animal and Bioscience Research Department, Teagasc Moorepark, animal genetics allows farmers to select superior animals to become the parents of the next generation. Genetics involves the passing on of favourable or unfavourable genes from one generation to the next.

“For example, an animal that displays high growth rates or good conformation due to superior genetics will allow the favourable genes to filter down through your herd.

“Therefore, genetics is permanent and cumulative and allows farmers to make long-term genetic gains, something that feeding or management cannot compensate for.

Prior to selecting a bull, the most suitable animal for the herd production system must be determined, she says. “For example, if farmers are interested in targeting the weanling or finishing markets then they should pay particular attention to the terminal index prior to purchasing a bull. On the other hand, farmers looking to breed or purchase replacements should focus on examine the replacement index. Irrespective of the type of animal that is needed, careful attention should be placed on both the star rating of the animal and the associated reliability.”

Results to date show that animals with 5 star ratings across a range of maternal trait consistently outperform animals with lower star ratings. Cows with a 5 star rating for maternal weaning weight (i.e. milk yield) produced weanlings that were 15kg heavier. Relative to a cow with 5 stars for each of the maternal traits, 1 star cows were 40% more likely to have some level of calving difficulty, 7.4% more likely to have a dead calf and 3.2% less likely to survive to a subsequent calving

Based on the ICBF data, a farmer can see what his herd profile is and identify areas to improve. Based on this you can select a bull that is a higher genetic merit than the herd, which will allow them improve the herd.

At Beef 2014, farmers will have the opportunity to get a broad overview and one-on-one discussions with experts in the area, as well as meeting all the breed societies.