Farming

| 13.7°C Dublin

Farming

Close

Premium

Does beef data tell us any more about animal quality than the age-old skills of sizing up stock?

Big divisions have opened up in the beef sector on the merits of the star ratings system. Some farmers and breed societies claim the ratings and BDGP scheme have reduced the quality of the national suckler herd. The ICBF insists that the science backs up its position that the ratings are the way forward

Close

Eye of the beholder: The ICBF maintains that the star ratings data gives farmers an insight in vital traits that cannot be assessed solely by judging cattle in the sales ring. Photo Brian Farrell

Eye of the beholder: The ICBF maintains that the star ratings data gives farmers an insight in vital traits that cannot be assessed solely by judging cattle in the sales ring. Photo Brian Farrell

Brian Farrell

Farmers sizing up the stock at Roscommon Mart in 2018. Photo: Ray Ryan

Farmers sizing up the stock at Roscommon Mart in 2018. Photo: Ray Ryan

/

Eye of the beholder: The ICBF maintains that the star ratings data gives farmers an insight in vital traits that cannot be assessed solely by judging cattle in the sales ring. Photo Brian Farrell

For generations, the experienced eye was the only metric farmers used to evaluate cattle. “He’s a great judge of cattle,” beef farmers would be heard saying of certain men at the mart. The art of ‘judging’ cattle has long been a highly regarded skill, with many noting that “not everyone has it”.

However, the status of such judges has been under pressure in recent years as farmers moved to peering up at the plethora of information on mart boards before making a decision on an animal.

This trend first appeared in the early 2000s when farmers would check if an animal had the required premiums for EU payments. And since then the data on age, movements and export requirements have all become important variables in evaluating an animal.