Tuesday 27 September 2016

Genomics scheme 'reliability' ratings is set to rise

Influx of new DNA samples will boost star ratings' data

Martin Ryan and Majella O'Sullivan

Published 21/10/2015 | 02:30

Breeding expert Donagh Berry talks to a group of farmers at a Teagasc beef open day.
Breeding expert Donagh Berry talks to a group of farmers at a Teagasc beef open day.

The reliability of the Beef Genomic scheme's star ratings could jump by a third by the end of next year as DNA samples for thousands of farms begin flooding into ICBF.

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The early indications from research suggest that the reliability of the current star ratings is predicted to be just over 40pc for genomically-tested animals, but even this is twice the reliability of traditional pedigree records for many beef animals.

The reliability of the rankings that will determine whether farmers get paid in the new Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) was just one of the many topics that were aired during the Department of Agriculture's information meetings that started last week.

However, geneticists have insisted that the only way to get greater reliability into beef breeding rankings is through greater involvement by farmers in schemes such as the BDGP.

"With the beef cattle that were initially genotyped, it appears that reliabilities of around 43-45pc are being achieved," said Teagasc geneticist, Donagh Berry at the National Beef Conference. Even with the numbers genotyped rising to 100,000 last year, Dr Berry doesn't expect the reliabilities to rise much more than 2-3pc for this year.

"The reliability for the dairy increased by 10 percentage units as more animals were included in the reference population and the same will happen in beef so hopefully 55-58pc reliability will be achieved by the end of 2016," he added.

Dairy evaluations were always more reliable due to the amount of data that was available, with dairy cow evaluations before DNA testing typically coming in at 32pc reliability. This contrasts with the 25pc reliability associated with many beef bulls, and just 20pc or less for beef cows prior to DNA analysis. The reliabilities for animals without any recorded sire will be less than 10pc.

Despite being hailed as an "innovative programme that will revolutionise" beef breeding, farmers are still concerned about the rules surrounding the BDGP, especially the length of time they're tied into the new scheme.

Some 250 attended the first meeting at the Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney last week, where they heard that payments are expected to begin flowing in December, with an average payment of €1,500 per year, the meeting heard.

Carmel Delahunt of the direct payments division of the Department of Agriculture said they had received 29,770 applications, involving 580,000 animals and the department was dealing with around 100 queries per day.

To date, genotype samples have been submitted to the laboratory for over 10,500 herds in respect of around 107,000 animals.

Inspections

Farmers were told they could withdraw from the scheme up to payment or notification of inspection and 5pc of farmers would face inspections to determine if they met the minimum area of land required and the correct tagging requirement.

Ms Delahunt said that so far, 1,100 applicants had changed the referenced year from 2014 to 2015 but she said payments for those farmers would not be issued until February 2016.

It was also explained that all new agricultural schemes would run from between five and seven years but when one farmer inquired why it wasn't five, Ms Delahunt responded: "Well, it's not seven."

Under the programme, participants will have to have completed training courses by October 31, 2016 and there will be a payment of €166 to everyone who completes a course.

The courses will run for four hours and the training groups will include around 20 people.

Meetings were also held in Cork and in New Ross,Co Wexfor, with more planned for Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Limerick, Cavan and Donegal.

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