Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Beef suckler herd fertility has improved says ICBF

The national beef suckler herd's fertility is on the increase
The national beef suckler herd's fertility is on the increase

Martin Ryan

Fertility in the national beef suckler herd has improved for the second consecutive year, the 2016 HerdPlus Beef Calving results for the period July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, released last week by ICBF have confirmed.

The average calving interval has improved by 8 days from 407 days in 2015, to 399 days in 2016 with a similar trend apparent for other important fertility parameters such as calves per cow per year, percentage of heifers calved at 22-26 months of age and percentage of females not calved in period.

In the report, the ICBF point out however that the improvement has not been consistent over the past five years "with the figure for calving interval fluctuating up and down. The stress that important that breeders continue to focus on high Euro-Star bulls with high stars for 'Daughter Calving Interval'".

The percentage of heifers calved 22-26 months of age is showing slow but steady improvement from 12pc in 2011 to 17pc in 2014 and 20pc in 2016

ICBF has also stressed to breeders that "an important aspect of calving beef heifers at 24 months is making sure that they meet target weights. Weighing all cattle is good practice and this is particularly true for replacement heifers. Farmers can do this by using their own scales and subsequently recording weights on the ICBF website, or they can avail of the ICBF technician service.

"Once heifers are weighed farmers can assess performance levels accurately and see where their heifers stand in relation to targets".

Although calving interval and some other parameters has seen some improvement from the 2015/2016 figure, not all parameters show the same positive results a year on. The percentage of calves dead at birth is up from 4.7pc in 2015 to 4.9pc in 2016. Similarly the percentage of calves dead at 28 days is up from 6pc in 2015 to 6.4pc in 2016.

The report shows that the top 15pc of beef suckler herds had a calving interval of 361 days which equated to a calving interval that is all of 5.4 weeks greater than the figure for the national herd average of 399 days.

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"This figure is some way behind that of the top 15pc and with the calving interval figure for the national herd showing little consistent change over the past half-decade, it has never been so important that we focus our breeding on bulls with a high Eurostar Replacement index with a high fertility sub-index," states the ICBF report.

While the year on year figures indicate that breeders are moving in the right direction, however with little consistent change it is important to focus on improving the fertility of the national herd.

Many breeders and some of the breed associations have expressed serious reservations about the reliability of the current star ratings going forward as additional data for animals becomes available. However, the ICBF maintains that the introduction of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme and more focus on 4 and 5 star replacement breeding stock as a result, will see further improvements in the national herd and the trend for future years will show a more positive outcome.

A full listing of all the beef statistics is available on the ICBF website:

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