Farm Ireland

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Dairy-beef index in the pipeline

Darragh McCullough and Louise Hogan

Published 10/06/2015 | 02:30

Dr Andrew Cromie ICBF. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Dr Andrew Cromie ICBF. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

A new dairy-beef index is due out in the autumn, targeted at the increased numbers of dairy cows that will be producing beefing offspring in the coming years.

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The three main aims of the index will be to select bulls that provide short gestations, easy calvings, and calves with good beef characteristics, according to the ICBF's Andrew Cromie.

It also reflects an emerging trend in New Zealand where breeding programmes are actively trying to identify bulls with the shortest possible pregnancy periods.

"There are some really significant differences emerging, with some Hereford bulls in particular able to throw calves up to two weeks earlier than industry averages," said Mr Cromie.

The geneticist said that the trait had become particularly important in New Zealand since Fonterra clamped down on the practice of farmers artificially inducing their late calving cows to abort before they reached full term.

"It's a really heritable trait that results in easier calving and the cows coming back into milk faster," added Mr Cromie.

The trend towards shorter gestation bulls is also emerging in Ireland, with Munster AI's Doreen Corridan seeing an increase in interest from farmers.

"They've always been looking for it but there are more bulls available this year than in the past," she said, noting that the use of beef sires within the dairy herd up 10pc again this year - following a 10pc rise in 2014.

In contrast, the interest in sexed semen has waned, with farmers wary of the lower fertility rates that result with the technology.

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