ICBF has launched its new Gene Ireland Maternal Progeny Test Programme for spring 2014. The long-term objective of the programme is to reverse the decline in maternal traits, such as milk and fertility, in the national suckler herd and to help deliver consistent, measurable genetic gain in beef breeding.

According to ICBF, this will be done by identifying high Replacement Index bulls in pedigree beef herds and carrying out comprehensive progeny testing on these bulls. The bulls will be tested in commercial herds and ICBF is looking for farmers to sign up to the programme and use this semen.

ICBF launched an elite breeding programme for pedigree beef herds in late 2012 called the Gene Ireland Maternal Bull Breeder Programme. Participating herds have undertaken to record high levels of accurate data on their animals and also to place more emphasis on maternal traits when choosing bulls to mate with their cows. Bulls tested through the Maternal Progeny Test Programme will be sourced from these herds. Some AI company owned bulls that meet certain criteria may also be tested through the programme.

According to ICBF, the pedigree herds participating in the Maternal Bull Breeder Programme will be continuously monitored for the presence of high Replacement Index bulls. The best of these bulls will be selected by breed committees which have been assembled by ICBF for each of the 11 participating beef breeds. These selected bulls will then be purchased by Gene Ireland and placed in an AI stud.