Over 100 bulls tested through Gene Ireland programme

Over 100 bulls have been tested through the Gene Ireland Maternal Beef Programme, the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) has confirmed.

Launched in 2014, the programme is run by the ICBF in conjunction with the participating breed societies and AI companies.

The purpose of the programme is to identify and progeny test “elite” young bulls with a high replacement index.

As it stands, six of the current top 10 Irish bred AI bulls on the ICBF Active Bull List were tested through the Gene Ireland Maternal Beef Programme, the federation explained.

Image source: ICBF

Continuing, it added that over 100 bulls across 12 breeds have been tested through the programme to date.

With an average cost of €15,000 to test each bull, a total of €1.5 million has reportedly been invested by the ICBF and the Gene Ireland Maternal Beef Programme in the “genetic improvement of the Irish suckler herd”.


Outlining the steps involved in the programme, the ICBF stated that young bulls – across all breeds – with the highest replacement index are identified from its database.

In a statement it said: “A selection process is then initiated by each breed’s selection committee – which is made up of representatives from the ICBF, the breed society, AI companies and commercial farmers.

Bulls are shortlisted based on index details, pedigree and any other criteria deemed necessary. Bulls are then inspected by an ICBF linear scorer for any physical defects or docility issues.

“Each bull’s dam is also inspected. This inspection process will further reduce the shortlist of bulls. Each breed committee then reconvenes to select bulls from the final lists,” the federation said.

Following on from this, an agreed price is then offered for each bull; if accepted the bull will then begin the required quarantine period.

Once various health screening procedures are passed, the bull enter a stud – where 1,000 doses of semen are collected from each entrant.

The ICBF stated that AI companies have first refusal on the bulls once semen collection has finished, but bulls that are not purchased are sold to farmers through a tender process.

Progeny testing

As part of the next step, 500 doses of each bull’s semen are distributed to commercial suckler farmers, according to the federation.

Various information – such as insemination dates and calving difficulty – are recorded. Progeny are also weighed at different stages.

Bulls that go through a successful progeny test are then returned to the programme as Gene Ireland ‘Graduates’.

It is then that the remaining 500 doses of semen from each bull are made available to pedigree breeders to use on cows with high replacement index values in their respective herds.

It is hoped that the progeny from these matings will be “the future elite stock and AI bulls for Irish suckler farmers”.


However, it emerged in recent weeks that two beef breed societies are pulling out of the programme.

Also Read: 2 beef breed societies pull out of ICBF programme

Both the Irish Charolais Cattle Society and the Irish Belgian Blue Cattle Society confirmed that they will not be engaging with the programme moving forward. It is understood that the Irish Simmental Cattle Society has not engaged with the programme for the past couple of years.

The relationship between the ICBF and some of Ireland’s beef breed societies has been under pressure in recent weeks. It is understood that the ICBF and the Pedigree Cattle Breeders’ Council of Ireland are scheduled to meet in the near future to discuss breeders’ concerns.