ICBF to launch improved genetic evaluations this week

The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) board has approved the implementation of changes to the dairy Economic Breeding Index (EBI) and the calving difficulty evaluation.

The changes are expected to come into effect in the next official proof run at 3:00pm on Thursday, January 23.

The developments come after several years of research involving Teagasc and the ICBF, apparently arising from industry feedback.

The fundamental improvements include changes to:
  • Genomics in the EBI;
  • Calving difficulty in the EBI, replacement and terminal index;
  • Maintenance sub-index in the EBI;
  • Dairy Beef Index (DBI).

In terms of genetics in the EBI, the ICBF says that the changes will see “more accurate” genomic evaluations, based on including cows and other dairy breeds in the reference population.

This, it says, will allow the provision of genomic evaluation services for other dairy breeds, including dairy cross-bred animals for the first time.

Also Read: New changes to be made to the dairy EBI and calving difficulty evaluations

It is understood that, when it comes to calving difficulty in the EBI, the goal is to make more informed breeding decisions with a calving difficulty figure that’s more specific to the animal being mated (whether the bull is mated to a dairy heifer, a dairy cow, a beef heifer or a beef cow).

A maintenance sub-index that better reflects cow live-weight on-farm will be developed.

While the roll-out of the DBI will continue, it will now also include stock bulls and young pedigree breeding bulls.

Maximising profitability

Sean Coughlan, the chief executive of ICBF, said the federation is “continually striving” to deliver improved accuracy in genetic evaluations to the agri-industry.

“That process will never end as there will always be room for improvement,” he said.

“Where innovative research and technology proves to be more beneficial than current methodologies, the ICBF will look to implement them so that farmers and industry can make decisions that maximise profitability and sustainability.”

Michael Doran, the chairperson of the ICBF, added that the organisation is now in a position to offer genomic evaluation services for all dairy animals.

The updating of the calving evaluation will also help farmers make more informed decisions, as they will now be able to differentiate between the calving difficulty of a bull depending on the type of animal to be mated.

“This is especially relevant for the continued roll-out of the DBI. The extension of that index to now include stock bulls and young bulls is a very welcome development.