An index for suckler herds too?
Details of the Teagasc/ICBF beef breeding seminar and the launch of the updated Maternal Index are reported on page 12 in this paper by Martin Ryan. A lot of work has gone into fine tuning this index which will be a guide to selecting suckler cow replacements.
ICBF will never understate the importance of their contribution to Irish farming but I can't help thinking that here we are with a Rolls-Royce animal records database, yet genetically, most cattle are changing hands anonymously.
Where it is known, why can the ID of the sire not be included on the passport (Blue Card)?
If I want to acquire the progeny of a top performing AI beef sire, where can I find them? If I buy Simmental cross heifers for suckler replacements, for example, and want to AI them, how can I be sure that I won't breed them back to their own sire?
I own Charolais bullocks (bought at enormous expense) which are very hard finished. If I knew their breeding I would avoid that bloodline in future.
It's not ICBF's fault but the inclusion of sire information on the passport would make genetic information available to the everyday trader.
Another gap, identifiable from the breeding conference, is the absence of formal supply routes for suckler herd replacements. The big majority of Irish suckler herd owners do not want to breed their own herd replacements. Herds are too small and it complicates their system. Also purchased hand reared replacements tend to be more docile and less inclined to suckle other cows.
For decades the Limousin cross British Friesian has been the cow of choice for suckler herd owners. Teagasc Grange research has now come to the same conclusion. For tougher suckler terrain, Angus or Hereford crosses from the dairy herd are also an option.