Farm Ireland

Friday 19 January 2018

Genomic selection gives out big gains

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Genomic selection has taken the dairy breeding industry by storm, with benefits to the national herd of over €8m accruing from an investment of just €500,000.

The beef industry is expected to reap a similar, if not even greater, return from the technology when it becomes widely used.

Although genomically selected beef bulls are unlikely to be commercially available for 12-24 months, their potential is enormous.

Genomic selection will allow AI companies and herd owners to select only the best bulls to breed from in a far shorter period than would be possible if they had to wait for progeny performance records.

Given that the level of AI use is far lower in the beef herd than in the dairy herd, accurate selection of a high-performing stock bull will dramatically increase the genetic, and therefore economic, gain on individual farms.


Genomic selection for beef bulls is a different task than for dairy bulls because the crossbred nature of Irish beef production requires across-breed evaluations, rather than within-breed evaluations.

The ICBF/Teagasc collaboration that is driving genomic selection has already sought DNA samples from selected bulls, drawn from both AI companies and farmers with stock bulls.

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However, samples are still to be requested as a shortfall is expected.

As genomic selection in the beef herd moves closer to reality, beef farmers can look forward to the day when they can screen their bull calves to select the best possible stock bulls and cull the lowest-performing animals.

Although individual testing currently costs roughly €250/animal, it is hoped that a more affordable rate of €50/test will be available in the coming years.

Given that genetic gain and economic returns are linked, a charge of €50 to determine the best bull to use in a herd could be the best €50 ever spent.

Irish Independent