The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) ended 2017 with a small financial surplus after enduring a challenging year in terms of income.

According to the organisation’s end of year accounts, it recorded a final audited surplus of €42,000 – up from €32,052 in 2016.

Overall revenue at the ICBF in 2017 was €13.1 million – down from €17.4 million in 2016 – with the reduction largely due to reduced genotyping revenues in 2017.

Last year’s funding for the not-for-profit farmer-owned body – established by Government and industry to coordinate livestock breeding – comprised of: grants from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (33%); HerdPlus (22%); service providers (17%); genomics (14%) and tag contributions from cattle farmers (9%).

Service fees from the cattle breeding industry and farmers include significant genotyping costs associated with the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) scheme.

The ICBF stated that: “The issue of tag income did impact in the early part of the year. However, thanks to continued strong support from the department and robust income from our partners using and providing our services, the ICBF ended the year with a small financial surplus.”

Meanwhile, the ICBF highlighted that the overall trends being delivered on both the dairy and beef through genetic improvements continue to be “very positive”.

It stated that, after years of negative trends, the replacement index of the suckler beef herd has now “turned around” and is growing at some €7/year.

The ICBF stated that this result is a direct consequence of the impact of the BDGP scheme and its focus on maternal traits.

The impact of this world-leading scheme has been profound, with average calves/cow/year having increased from 0.79 calves/cow/year in 2014, to 0.85 for 2017.

Consequential gains in sustainability and carbon efficiency of the national suckler herd were also recorded by the organisation.

In addition to gains in maternal traits, the ICBF also highlighted that improvements in terminal traits have also continued to increase, with the average terminal index having increased by some €70 per animal slaughtered over the last 15 years.

Reflecting this across the one million beef animals slaughtered per year in Ireland represents a gain of almost €580 million to beef farmers and the wider beef industry, the ICBF stated.

EBI results

The Economic Breeding Index (EBI) has delivered €750 million of additional value to the dairy sector over the last 20 years, according to the ICBF.

Outlining the breeding programme’s progress, it states that the trends in EBI continue to advance on both the milk and fertility indexes – making a significant contribution to profitability at farm level over the years.

Touching on some of the more recent updates to the breeding index, the ICBF said: “The average EBI of dairy-bred females increased by €21 in 2017.

“This increase would not have happened were it not for the ICBF board decision to update dairy AI proofs last spring after a technical error was identified in the spring 2017 genomic evaluations,” the organisation stated.

Also Read: What has the EBI delivered in monetary terms?

Michael Doran, the ICBF chairman, said: “2017 has been a year where, despite some technical challenges, we have continued to exploit the new cattle breeding technologies for the benefit of Irish farmers.

There are real challenges ahead in keeping up with the world’s best in terms of the use of data and technology, and it will require ongoing investment.

Sean Coughlan, ICBF CEO, said: “the ICBF exists to benefit our farmers, our agri-food industry and our communities through genetic gain.

“We do this through the delivery of high-value, low-costs services from the cattle breeding database, and by applying science and technology to ensure our farmers and industry make the most profitable and sustainable decisions,” he said.

The ICBF database crossed one million genotypes in 2017; making it the second largest cattle breeding programme in the world after the US.