Big strides in genomics
It is just 12 months since the launch of genomic selection as a tool in cattle breeding. Irish farmers have used bulls based on genomic data in spring 2009 and more than one third of all inseminations carried out in spring '09 were to sires whose proof was based on genomic data.
The first of these bulls have now got proofs based on the performance of their daughters and it would appear that, on average, they match their genomic proofs quite closely.
The rest of the world has followed Ireland and adopted this new technology for their breeding programmes.
Genomic development in Ireland has not stood still and over the past 12 months Ireland has expanded its "training population" (which is essential for accuracy in genomic selection) from 1,000 bulls to more than 5,000. This has resulted in higher reliabilities for the genomic proof of many bulls on this year's active sire list.
The National Cattle Breeding Centre (NCBC) has worked to develop the technology and during 2009, the NCBC has genotyped over 360 young bull calves. Most of these were born on Irish farms and using this genomic data NCBC has selected a panel of bulls for 2010. Despite the losses due to an outbreak of IBR at one of the units, NCBC has young bulls with genomic EBIs as high as €280 in their stud.
NCBC has also been busy working on semen processing at the centre at Enfield. The laboratory has received ISO accreditation for its processes and works to the highest standards. All semen is checked at the time of processing and prior to dispatch. The ultimate monitor of the semen quality is the performance in the field.
Using data captured by the call centre staff and the AI technicians in the field using their hand-held devices, NCBC has access to the results of thousands of inseminations to monitor the quality of semen it produces. To ensure continued production of the highest quality semen, NCBC are undertaking investments in equipment and training of €100,000 over the next two years.