Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

How to interpret the beef scheme's data

Letters will be arriving from the ICBF over the next fortnight outlining the star rating for suckler farmers that applied to the Beef Data and Genomics programme (BDGS).

The cover letter is split into four sections:

Section A

Outlines the number of reference number of suckler cows for the purposes of the BDGS. It is based on the number of cows that had an eligible calf in 2014.

Section B

States the two key targets:

- the number of females over the age of 16 months that your herd will need to have rated four or five star by October 2018 to meet the 20pc requirement.

- the number of females over the age of 16 months that your herd will need to have rated four or five star by October 2020 to meet the 50pc requirement.

Also Read

This shows the number in breeding herd that are currently ranked as four or five star.

Section C

This section also reminds farmers that their stock bull must also be a four or five star animal by June 2019, and that 80pc of the AI used on the farm must be four or five star by June 2016.

Section D

There is then a breakdown of three key female breeding groups according to their star ratings. This includes the cows, heifers over 12 months and heifers under 12 months.

The rest of the document goes through each breeding animal in the herd, outlining their tag numbers, dates of birth, lactation number, breed, dam, sire, index and replacement star rating.

What is noticeable is the variation in star ratings from animal to animal, even if they appear to have similar characteristics.

For example, in Colm Conlon's case, there are a number of cows with eight, nine and 10 calves that are only scored two stars.

Surely cows that have remained productive over such a long period of time automatically qualify for a high maternal index?

Not so, according to ICBF analyst, Kevin Downing.

He points out that there could be a number of reasons why two cows with very similar details (for example, the same number of lactations, age, and breed)can have very different star ratings.

"Often the difference could be related to the fact that the mother was out of a good dairy cow with lots of data. Gaps in information or data really effect the index, even if the cow is a good performer on farm.

"The only way for us to fix this is to get more routine data coming in from beef herds - that's a lot of what this scheme is about," said Mr Downing.

Farmers that have focused heavily on producing weanlings for 'the boat' from bulls with more extreme terminal traits may also be disappointed with the ratings of their cows.

This is because the replacement index on this type of progeny tends to be low, having been sacrificed in favour of more muscle and conformation.

This is the other key aim of the BDGS - to rebalance the direction of the national suckler herd because national data has shown that fertility and profitability was being bred out of the suckler cow with the constant pursuit of 'fancy' conformation progeny.

Indo Farming