Farm Ireland

Monday 22 January 2018

ICBF given green light for progeny tests at Tully

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) has got the green light to proceed with a progeny testing programme at the Department of Agriculture-owned test centre at Tully in Co Kildare.

The old pedigree bull performance testing programme was mothballed last November.

It has been empty for the past six months after a consultant's report found that the Tully test programme was not optimising the genetic gain for the national beef herd.

Peter Amer's report highlighted how the genetic gain within the beef herd was only increasing at a rate of €4/cow/year. This compares to €15/cow/year in the dairy herd.

However, it took months of painstaking negotiations to get many of the beef breed societies to back the new plan to use the Tully centre for testing the progeny of ICBF test AI bulls.

"The Tully programme was suffering from the fact that it wasn't able to attract enough of the top bulls," said the ICBF's Dr Andrew Cromie.

"As a result, not enough of the bulls that went through the centre were ending up in AI."

Up to 100 yearling bulls from bulls in the Gene Ireland programme will begin to arrive at the centre from the middle of July.

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The target is to test progeny of at least 20 bulls during the first year, but ICBF hopes that this will eventually increase to 70-80 bulls being tested annually.

"At that level we will increase the genetic gain in the national beef herd to €17-18/cow/year," said Dr Cromie.

The geneticist added that ICBF was open to a range of flexible ownership options with farmers that had bulls suited to the Gene Ireland programme.

"The ideal for many would be that an AI station would buy the bulls off them.

"But it is going to be very difficult to get the AI companies to commit to buying enough bulls here every year because there isn't the same profit margins in beef AI compared to dairy AI," he said.

Dr Cromie said that farmers would have the option of retaining ownership of their bull while still entering him into the AI testing programme.


"If their bulls qualify, farmers can put them into the programme without incurring any charge.

"In return, ICBF will retain 500 straws collected from the bull to generate test progeny, while another 500 will be held over for elite matings if the bull proves successful in the trials," said Mr Cromie.

The progeny trials at Tully will last for 120 days.

At the end of the trial, data will be collated on not just linear traits, feed intake and conversion efficiencies, but also disease resistance and eating quality.

The latter will be collected from trials on the progeny carcasses at meat plants.

All of the data collected will be fed into building a more comprehensive genomic data bank for Ireland's beef/suckler herd.

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