Farm Ireland

Friday 23 February 2018

Changes to ¤urostar beef index on the cards

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Changes to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation €urostar beef index could be in the pipeline to help farmers choose between beef and maternal traits when breeding cattle.

Some commercial farmers and pedigree breeders have questioned whether the Suckler Beef Value (SBV) index has become too "beefy", to the detriment of maternal traits such as calving interval, age at first calving and milk production.

The SBV values are used as the basis for awarding €urostar ratings for beef animals.

ICBF chief Brian Wickham said the issue was very similar to the recent dairy problems, when cow fertility suffered as a result of an over-emphasis on milk production traits.

"It's a question of how much emphasis to put on the direct traits such as carcass weight, relative to the emphasis put on maternal traits," he said.

"Beef farmers are more aware now that you need to have a cow to have a calf every year," said Mr Wickham, adding that the Derrypatrick debate had helped farmers to understand how crucial maternal traits were to a profitable suckler enterprise.

"There is a point of view out there that you can't have good maternal traits and good beef traits in one animal.

"That would have been the view in the dairy industry a few years ago but it has been clearly demonstrated that that is not the case.

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"You can have both fertility and milk but if you push one to the extremes, you will lose the other," he insisted.

The ICBF boss said the flow of information from the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme (SCWS) this year would be crucial to addressing maternal traits in the index.

Female calves born in 2008 -- the first year of the SCWS -- have calved down this year, providing valuable information on maternal traits.

In addition, the ICBF survey results covering 100,000 suckler cows are being compiled.

"We may have to fine tune the SBV index to make it easier for farmers to decide how to balance maternal traits versus direct traits like beef," Mr Wickham added.

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