The main aim of the new suckler scheme is to produce a more balanced national beef herd, according to ICBF’s Sean Coughlan.

According to Coughlan, the new replacement indexes are a tool the beef industry cannot afford not to use.

Speaking at a Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) information evening in New Ross recently, ICBF’s CEO said that there were far more high merit animals in the country 10 years ago.

“We want to produce a more balanced cow, I know that the vast majority of people have four and five-star cows in their herds, we just need a few more of them.”

He added although the new replacement index places a lot more emphasis on both milk and fertility the beef aspect is also important.

“The new index is 71% focused on the replacement traits and 29% on the beef traits.

“If we had more than a 71% focus on the replacement index we would say a Jersey would be an ideal sucker cow and we don’t want that to happen.”

According to Coughlan, the primary aim of the new scheme is to produce animals that will grow faster while also eating less, which will be beneficial in terms of farm efficiency and sustainability of the Irish beef industry.

Responding to farmers queries on the validity of the scheme and the star ratings of some cows the ICBF representative added that there will always be anomalies.

“There are going to be anomalies, but we are very confident that these indexes will bring us in the right direction.”

Differences in Low and High Index Animals

The Head of ICBF also presented figures indicating the profitability differences between high and low index herds.

“A high fertility herd of 20 cows can produce 1,050kg more carcass weight each year, at a sales price of €2.20/kg this represents an increase in profits of €2,030.”

He also presented figures from 2008 born heifers.

These figures indicate that five-star cows are more profitable than one-star cows due to the additional carcass weight produced, improved staying power within the herd and also through improved efficiency.

According to Coughlan, of the 104,000 2008 born heifers, 79% of the five-star animals still on farm, he said, this is 13% higher than the one-star cows (63%).

The one-star animals also produced a weaning which was 27kg lighter than the high merit animals, but he added that the weanlings produced from the five-star animals had a slightly lower €/kg price.

However, despite this slightly lower €/kg price, he added that calves produced from five-star cows allowed farmers to walk out of the mart with an additional €28/animal for the high vs low index animals.

These differences were also evident in the finishing period, progeny of the five-star cows finished 39 days earlier than those from one-star animal, he added.

Breakdown of 2008 Born Heifers
  • Home bred 60%
  • AI bred 24%
  • Dairy Bred 23%
  • Still alive 65%