New beef genomics program launched in Ireland

The Minister for Agriculture recently launched a new Beef Data and Genomics Program in Ireland which he says will deliver accelerated genetic improvement in the national herd, and improve its environmental and economic sustainability.

According to a recent article, Minister Coveney said improving the genetics of the national herd will enhance its carbon efficiency, and will also deliver significant economic benefits to farmers over time. He added that Ireland’s beef sector is a major contributor to the economy, exports and employment, particularly in rural areas. The program is also a key measure under Irelands Rural Development Plan and will see investment of approximately €300 million ($334 million USD) into suckler (preweaned calf) farming over the next six years.

“While the expansion of the dairy herd will have an impact on beef output, our premium beef offering will continue to rely on a high quality suckler herd, “ the minister said in the article. “This program harnesses technology in a way that meets a number of the key challenges facing suckler farmers, and positions Ireland as a global leader in the application of genomics in the beef sector.”

Those who wish to participate will be required to follow several steps, which are described in detail below:

  • Calving details: The first requirement states that all newborn calves must be registered within 27 days of birth. The farmer must also provide sire number and complete a survey relating to calving ease.
  • Surveys: The second step requires farmers to complete a range of surveys relating to the calves, cows and bulls in the applicant’s herd.
  • Genotyping: The third requirement states all genotyping must be complete for all animals specified by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF). The the number to be genotyped will be equivalent to 60% of the number of reference animals on an applicant’s holding in 2014.
  • Replacement strategy: Requirement 4 is has several

    Stock bull – At least one stock bull on the holding must be genotyped either a 4 or 5 star either in the Terminal or Replacement index by June 30, 2019. This animal, or a similar 4 or 5 star bull, must be retained on the holding until June 30, 2020. (Applicants are strongly advised to introduce 4 or 5 star bulls at the next replacement date to avoid compliance difficulties.)

    Artificial insemination (AI) – Beginning June 30, 2016, when using AI, at least 80% must be used from 4 or 5 star bulls on the Terminal or Replacement index.

    Leased bulls – If the applicant is interested in leasing a bull, they must notify the Department by June 30, 2016 of his/her intention to do so during the course of the scheme. (Other specific conditions apply.)

    Female beef replacements – Applicants will be required to ensure that a percentage of their heifers/eligible suckler cows are genotyped females which are:

    a. 4 or 5 stars on the replacement index (see terms and conditions for specific conditions).
    b. At least 16 months old
    c. Born in 2013 or later

    As of Oct. 31, 2018, the number of beef heifers/eligible suckler cows meeting these requirements on each holding must be equivalent to 20% of the number of the applicant’s reference animals (established based on 2014 stocking levels). On Oct. 31, 2020 this number must be equivalent to 50% of the applicant’s reference animals.

  • Carbon navigator: As part of requirement five, applicants must complete a carbon navigator with an approved advisor before Oct. 31, 2016 and provide data for it to be annually updated. This is a tool that estimates the potential greenhouse gas reductions and financial savings that could be made on each farm.
  • Training: The final requirement is that all applicants must attend a training course relating to this scheme before Oct. 31, 2016.

Since the program was announced more than 5,000 farmers have applied, which the minister said shows that beef farmers have decided that engagement in this program represents good business planning.

For more information, click here.

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