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Breeders welcome the removal of calving stars

Pedigree beef breeders have welcomed a decision by ICBF to drop star ratings that were unfairly penalising some bulls on calving difficulty.

ICBF is to change the €uroStar index for calving difficulty to a simple percentage rating instead of the current rating of one to five stars.

Pat Donellan of the ICBF said farmers had been "going overboard" on selecting bulls for low calving difficulty.

"Farmers have been going to sales with the intention of only buying bulls with a four or five star rating for calving difficulty," he told a beef industry consultation meeting in Portlaoise on Wednesday.

"It is putting a lot of pressure on individual bulls who were only slightly more difficult calving than their breed average but were getting only one or two stars for calving difficulty."

The ICBF expert quoted the example of the Angus bull Aynho Rossiter Eric (AYR). The bull has a calving difficulty of 2.6pc, only slightly above the breed average of 2.18pc and below the all-breed average of 5.04pc. Yet he only received 1.5 stars for calving difficulty.

"A small difference in calving difficulty percentage equates to a large difference in stars so a bull at 7pc calving difficulty could have the same star rating as a bull at 17pc calving difficulty," he explained.

Mr Donellan added that many farmers were purchasing 'easy calving' bulls, according to their star rating for calving difficulty, although they were only average bulls on the overall index.


Larry Feeney of the Hereford Society welcomed the move, saying that the calving difficulty star rating had totally distorted the trade for bulls.

"There's a psychological effect to seeing a bull with only one or two stars for calving," he said. "And not all farmers would go to the more detailed information on breed comparison."

Paul Sykes of the Limousin Society also welcomed the move, saying that some bulls in the Premier Sale in Roscrea would have been affected by their low star ratings on calving.

"Bulls with low stars [for calving difficulty] took a hit. If a man doesn't bid for a bull, that costs the breeder money," he commented.

Mr Sykes warned that buyers needed to look at bull reliability figures and not just star ratings alone.

"Some people are taking the stars as gospel," he said. "But it has happened that you could find a bull with five stars for milk and a reliability of 0pc so farmers need to look at stars and reliability together."

Meanwhile, Aidan Moloney of the Irish Angus maintained the removal of stars for calving difficulty could be confusing for buyers and breeders.

"A buyer at a sale this week can see what a bull's star rating is but at another sale in two weeks' time, he will have to look for a percentage," he said.

"People have really bought into the star system and now it's being taken away, it could be confusing."

Irish Independent