The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), Irish Beef Breed Societies and Industry Partners are working very closely together in order to get the very best bulls into the new Gene Ireland (G1) Maternal Beef Breeding programme.In 2012, the ICBF completed a major review of its beef GI programme. One of the key outcomes from the review was the need to increase the number of beef bulls being progeny tested on an annual basis.On its new website this morning, click here, ICBF outlines the main aims of the programme.

Main aims of the program:

1. Identify Top Maternal Bulls:
The main aim of the program is to identify the top Maternal bulls within each beef breed. However, by progeny testing a high number of bulls, the program will also identify bulls that excel on terminal traits, calving ease and other key profit traits.

2. Identify Top Data Recording Pedigree Herds:
Pedigree Herds that constantly record accurate data on their cattle will also be identified through this program. The level of transparency as regards record keeping will give commercial farmers purchasing stock from such herds an extra guarantee as regards the integrity of the data behind an animal’s €uro-Star figures. Click here for its Bull Breeder Brochure


 1. Sign Up
All Irish Pedigree Beef Breeders can sign up to the program by filling in an application form (available from ICBF) & returning it to ICBF. There is an annual fee of €250/herd which must also be included with the application form (Cheque or Direct Debit).

2. ‘Bull Breeder’ Qualification Process
* Once your herd is signed up to the program you will begin the process of getting your herd qualified as an official ‘Bull Breeder’ herd.
* Your herd will be assessed using the Herd Data Quality Index (HDQI). This is a new tool which will analyse all of the data that you record on your animals for its accuracy & quality.
* The data from a herd is assessed for its completeness & timeliness.

For example:
Dates of birth on all calves recorded accurately.
Insemination dates recorded for all females at time of insemination.
Stockbull introduction & removal from the cows recorded accurately.
Gestation lengths for all females are within biological limits.
All eligible animals in the herd are linear scored & weight recorded.
All cows in the herd will be linear scored to assess their functionality, udder quality etc.
All youngstock will be weighed & scored to confirm their birth dates, growth rates etc.
All Stockbulls will be weighed & scored to assess their functionality etc.
ICBF will work closely with each Breeder to help them improve their index, in order to become a qualified ‘Bull Breeder’ as quickly as possible.

3. Qualified Maternal ‘Bull Breeder’ Herds
* Herds that have achieved excellent ‘Herd Data Quality Index’(HDQI) ratings and attain the ‘Bull Breeder’ status now enter a different phase of the program and start reaping the benefits of being a fully qualified ‘Bull Breeder’ herd (listed below).
* Qualified ‘Bull Breeder’ herds will have to still achieve a very high ‘HDQI’ rating on an annual basis in order to retain their ‘Bull Breeder’ status.
* Benefits of being a qualified ‘Maternal Bull Breeder’ herd:

1. Mating Advice
* Guidance on best practice in relation to herd health & the rearing of young bulls & heifers for breeding. i.e. ensuring that all animals produced from the herd are fit and & ready for breeding purposes.
* Mating advice on all breeding females in the herd – minimizing inbreeding and maximizing genetic gain.
* Provide priority access to new technology’s such as genomics.

2. G€N€ IR€LAND Stamp
* A G€N€ IR€LAND (GI) stamp will be displayed on all publically available ICBF material.
* All Bulls & Heifers being sold will have this stamp printed beside them in Sales Catalogues, on Bull Search Web Pages, in Breed Society Online Herdbooks etc.
* This stamp demonstrates to a purchaser that the herd from which the animal is being sold from has achieved an extremely high standard of data quality (i.e. correct dates of birth, accurate insemination/mating dates etc.).
* The Herds which have achieved this level of data quality will also be listed as qualified Maternal Beef Breeding Herds on the ICBF & Breed Society Websites & Yearbooks.

3. AI Bull
* There is the possibility that the GI program will purchase a bull from your herd from which semen will be collected.
* Bulls will only be purchased from breeders that sign-up to the program.
* Each bull that is purchased for AI will have 1000 semen straws collected.
* 500 semen straws will be used as part of progeny testing the bull:
* The remaining 500 semen straws will be stored until the bull is proven (high reliability for either terminal or maternal index or both).
* At this stage the semen will then be distributed for use in elite mating’s to herds that have signed-up to the program. Only bulls that excel in the program will have their semen disseminated to pedigree herds.
* As a participating Bull Breeder, your Herd will have complimentary access to semen from those AI Sires that have been purchased by the program and which have performed extremely well on progeny test. The cost of this semen is covered by the annual fee to join the program.


The ICBF outlined an example of a pedigree Limousin Breeder that has joined the programme, it is reproduced here.

Pedigree Breeder Example

Michael Healy, Clogherane East, Lauragh, Killarney, Co.Kerry

Backround of the herd: Michael bought 4 Blonde heifers off Kevin Foley, Killeagh, Co.Cork in 1991. He has bred up off these animals, selecting out any with poor docility along the way to now have 10 breeding females.

Maternal Breeding: The herd has an overall maternal rating of €66. The young-stock in the herd have maternal ratings of €18 for the ‘>12 months’ category and €85 for the ‘0-12 months’ category which is in the top 20% for the Blonde d’Aquitaine breed.

Top Maternal Cows: One of the top cows in Michael’s herd is ‘Kingdom Niamh’ (Eugene x Kilboy Conor ). She has a maternal index of €91 (reliability: 42%). She was born on the 16th of May 1997. She has produced 14 calves, is a very milky & fertile cow and has an average calving interval of 380 days.

Key traits of interest: Calving Ease and docility are very important traits for Michael. Over the years he has culled any pedigrees with poor docility. He is also using the ICBF birthweight tape to record the skeletal measurements on newborn calves with. ICBF will then convert these measurements into birthweights. Weight for age, milk and fertility are the other traits that Michael also looks for in his cattle.

Recent Sires used:  Ringot, Aneto, Blackwater Ainsley, Tokapi, Onyx & Landais

Breeder’s comment: “I have concentrated on the traditional Blonde d’Aquitaine AI Sires. They have a balance of beef and also milk & fertility. An example of this would be the bull I have used a lot of lately called ‘Ringot’. Sired by ‘Jocker’, He is €99 for the Maternal index and €91 for the Terminal index. It would be great if this Bull Breeder program could put us more in control of the type of pedigree Blonde cattle that breeders are producing here. No breed is perfect and for example, gestation lengths & calving interval are 2 traits where there is room for improvement in our breed. Finding bulls that are strong in these traits and getting them used by pedigree breeders here would be a positive development.

Image Shutterstock

All information above from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation, visit its new website here.