The Sustainable Breeding Summit took place over three evenings earlier this month, and focused on all things breeding.

The summit was produced by Agriland Media Group in conjunction with Progressive Genetics and Munster Bovine.

Sustainable Breeding Summit

Over the three evenings, panels of farmers and experts shared advice on how farmers can obtain maximum genetic gain from their breeding season this year.

The summit focused on both dairy and suckler breeding, offering farmers great insight into all various aspects.

What has EBI delivered for dairy farmers?

The first episode of the summit focused on what the economic breeding index (EBI) has delivered for dairy farmers.

Martin Kavanagh from Munster Bovine was joined by a panel of experts and farmers to discuss this, along with a number of other topics.

Sustainable Breeding Summit
(L:R) Seamus Hughes, Robert Hovenden, Michael Ryan, George Ramsbottom, Eoghan McCarthy and Martin Kavanagh

The viewers of the summit heard the panel discuss how EBI has delivered one billion euro in additional profit to dairy farmers in the last 20 years, and how farmers managed the transition from the relative breeding index (RBI) to EBI.

The panel also discussed the importance of selecting your best cows for generating replacements.

Genetics follow from mother to daughter and breeding from your best cows should result in the highest quality replacement heifers.

The panel on the first night of the summit also discussed the importance of spreading the risk when using sires.

Nationally, up to a third of dairy calves born on an individual farm come from the same sire – which is high risk.

The use of a large number of sires spread evenly across your herd is the best way to reduce risk.

Breeding and fertility management

The second episode of the summit focused on breeding and fertility management on dairy farms.

Sustainable Breeding Summit
(L:R) Ben Slee, Denis Howard, James Hanly, Trevor Hanly, George Beattie and Martin Kavanagh

The episode’s panel discussed sexed semen and how they advise farmers to use it on both heifers and cows.

Denis Howard from Munster Bovine explained the term ‘purity’, which is associated with sexed semen and bull selection.

We also heard from Ben Slee, an artificial insemination (AI) technician with Munster Bovine, who advised about stacking the odds in your favour.

He offered advice to farmers who are planning on using a synchronisation programme to maximise conception rates.

We also heard from Denis Howard about ensuring that cows are ‘fully fed’ heading into the breeding season.

He recommend that farmers get a handle on how much their cows are producing and how much dry matter they are taking in.

He also suggested that farmers with cows in a body condition score that is too low consider once-a-day (OAD) milking, to reduce the production demand placed on them.

Suckler breeding

The final episode of the summit saw a shift in focus away from dairy breeding, to focus on suckler breeding.

For this episode, we had a new host, John Heslin from MSD, who was joined by a the panel of farmers and industry experts.

Sustainable Breeding Summit
(L:R) John Heslin, Hubert Nicholson, John McDaniel, Ciaran Lenehan and Rose Goulding

The panel discussed technology and the role it has to play on suckler farms, particularly during the calving and breeding season.

Ciaran Lenehan discussed the use of a calving camera and heat detection collars on this farm and how these investments have affected his farm business.

We heard from Rose Goulding, the beef programme manager with the National Cattle Breeding Centre (NCBC) on bull selection for beef AI.

Rose explained some of the criteria that NCBC look for when selecting a bull for use in AI.

Rose also outlined how improving suckler cow efficiency will help to make farms more profitable and also reach our climate obligations.

“From a beef perspective we are really, really lucky, because anything we do from a breeding point of view to improve sustainability will also improve profitability,” she said.

All the episodes from the Sustainable Breeding Summit are available on Agriland.