ICBF has bred success but jury is still out on beef performance
Over the years I've watched the growth of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) with more than a passing interest. I've listened to sectors raving about the worth of ICBF, while other sectors lamented damage it has done.
I've marvelled at the early drive from ICBF, its focus, even its arrogance and its attempts at empire building. I've also observed its ability to perform U-turns when the occasion demanded.
ICBF's access to national data put it in a position of power and influence. With this power and potential for monopoly, came the responsibility to use it fairly.
The early ICBF years very much centred around the personality of the first chief executive Dr Brian Wickham who was head-hunted from New Zealand.
Mr Wickham retired last year. Even his detractors, who were many and vociferous, would now accept that he was the right man in the right place at the right time.
He had the vision to establish world-class breeding programmes for Ireland, a thick skin to deflect criticism and the focus and energy to drive them through. If, in the interim, some sensitive industry corns got walked on, then so be it. No one, vested interest or otherwise, was allowed to halt the ICBF advance.
Interestingly, Dr Wickham has now travelled back to New Zealand to help sort database issues in that country. Last year, the New Zealand AI company LIC (Livestock Improvement Corporation) lost its monopoly position on the New Zealand database to the government agency Dairy NZ. I understand that this transition is not proceeding smoothly. Hence the call for Dr Wickham.
In Ireland too, a complaint has been made to the EU Commission concerning the effect State monopolies such as ICBF and Teagasc have on small IT businesses which were up and going before ICBF was established. The companies involved are AgriNet and Kingswood.