Farm Ireland

Saturday 25 November 2017

Beef farmers demand action on data cheats

Societies claim ICBF is to blame for delay in roll-out of programme to tackle falsification of records

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

Darragh McCullough

Beef farmers have called on the Irish Cattle Breeding Society (ICBF) to speed up the roll-out of measures to tackle the falsification of key breeding data.

The falsification of data is costing beef farmers up to €10m a year, industry sources have claimed.

ICBF data has revealed that over half of cesareans performed on pedigree beef cows are not recorded, while cross-fostering with dairy cows, inaccurate birth dates and a host of other malpractices were common on pedigree beef farms as breeders sought to maximise the sale value of their breeding bulls.

As many as one in 10 pedigree bulls, averaging close to €3,000 each, never even produce a calf.

However, the big three breed societies - Charolais, Limousin and Simmental - are claiming that it is ICBF's fault that a programme to stamp out deception in the sector has not got off the ground.

"ICBF need, to do more work on additional data collection on birth weights and AI records," said the Simmental Society secretary Peadar Glennon.

"Only 40pc of inseminations are being recorded on handheld devices by technicians, despite a commitment from ICBF 10 years ago on this."

While the breeding boss claimed that breed societies were anxious that "something" should happen in relation to the issues highlighted by the ICBF data, he insisted that breeders were being unfairly singled out.

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"There is a lot of negative publicity about pedigree breeders, but there's no major proof of the facts behind this. For example, it's unfair to say that over half of cesareans go unrecorded when there are multiple reasons for a cesarean [apart from a sire having calving difficulty]," he said.

Mr Glennon added that breeders had taken "an awful hit on returns" partly because "40pc of cattle have been devalued" by the €uroStar system for ranking cattle.

The Charolais society president, Kevin Maguire also claimed that his society was not stopping the scheme going ahead but, he added, that he was very unhappy with the ICBF's breeding strategy.

"We're going backwards. I don't know what [the ICBF] are basing their information on.

"Where's the reliability in ICBF's stories when an animal can go from two stars to five stars? I want the ICBF's claims [on false information] verified.

"Breeders are not the rogues - 99.9pc are telling the truth.

"I wouldn't sell a bull to anyone if I thought he was going to be hard calving," he said.

The Limousin society president, Dan O'Mahony said that "it's not our fault that the steering committee [for a new programme] hasn't presented anything to us".

"We've been in favour of it since day one but it can't be an extra cost to breeders - the money isn't in it. There's a lot of people making a good living out of farmers making no living," he said.

ICBF’s Andrew Cromie said that the scheme would not cost more for the vast majority of farmers.

“Rather than getting a person out to a farm 2-3 times a year to score a few animals for a sale, this would be a whole herd inspection just once a year, which would cost the same,” he said.

He said the current system was penalising honest breeders.

“The more honest they were, the less money they were getting, so they were asking why they were crucifying themselves.

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