Use of top-quality genes from abroad vital to the Irish beef breeding programme
The export market for suckled weanlings gets the limelight but more than 90pc of the 2010 crop will stay on Irish farms.
And while the Belgian Blue/Blonde/Parthenais/Piedmontese type cattle might suit an Italian feedlot they are not the choice of cattle for finishing in Ireland. These breeds of cattle are not best suited to finishing on grass. Neither are they ideal for hacking it on slatted floors.
The CMMS statistics from the Department of Agriculture show that the Charolais is the leading sire in suckler herds at over 40pc of the total. Next come Limousin, followed by Angus and Simmental. When crossing beef bulls onto dairy cows, Angus and Hereford remain the bulls of choice.
While the arrival of the quality payment system (QPS) has put more emphasis on conformation, weight for age remains the biggest factor in income from Irish beef and suckler farming. Growth, coupled with the ability to rear a calf per cow on a 365-day cycle, will define the efficiency of your suckler herd.
There is huge scope for exploiting growth across all beef breeds. Simon Frost, a suckler herdowner in Derbyshire, England, is an example of good exploitation of growth and beef output. Simon buys his suckler herd replacements from dairy farmers who have used a Limousin bull chosen for growth and shape indices.
These are then mated in his herd with Charolais bulls selected from the top 1pc of the breed for growth. He looks for bulls proven to have about average calving difficulty rating.
Last season a group of 56 bulls from Simon Frost's herd averaged 447kg carcassweight at 15 months of age. That's 447kg carcassweight, not liveweight. Admittedly the calves were fed heavily all the way with the cheap feeds and by-products that are available in Britain, but it shows the scope that is in breeding.
In Ireland the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), pedigree breeders and AI groups are assembling a breeding programme that should produce outstanding beef genetics.