Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Letters in the post show 'significant' changes to index

Eddie Punch and Patrick Kent at the ICSA Annual Conference, Alexander Hotel, Dublin. Collins Photo: Michael Donnelly.
Eddie Punch and Patrick Kent at the ICSA Annual Conference, Alexander Hotel, Dublin. Collins Photo: Michael Donnelly.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Letters landing on the doorsteps of farmers detailing the genetic status of their beef herds will show "significant changes" to the replacement index.

The ICBF said the move will emphasise the key maternal traits for beef herds - such as milk and fertility - within the replacement index, which is a key target in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP).

However, the first of the farmers receiving their letters in the post this week will also see that the changes will substantially reduce the replacement value of all animals by around €60.

The ICBF points out this is because the Euro-Star replacement index is now based on the performance of a cow per calving and will include the performance of her progeny.

Previously, it was based on the performance of a breeding bull, which also included male calves destined for slaughter.

The weighting on the milk and fertility traits in the new index is up by 6pc. It has seen 20 out of the top 100 active AI sires based on the replacement index slip out of the top 100 rankings since it was last calculated in April.

However, the ICBF has emphasised the letters will show the majority of the 30,000 farmers signed-up will meet the four and five star targets. Farm bodies had raised concerns over suckler farmers reaching the targets.

Over 90pc already meet the 2018 requirement to have 20pc of the breeding herd ranked in the top 40pc nationally.

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Seven out of 10 have also reached the 50pc target set for 2020.

Eddie Punch, general secretary of the ICSA, said there was logic in the ICBF's moves to put more emphasis on milk and fertility.

"They've changed the ratings - in practice it seems there is a couple of bulls that have done badly out of it," he said, with some slipping down the maternal rankings.

"That gets people nervous about the genomics scheme when bulls ratings are being changed so dramatically in the course of a year."

Mr Punch said you could clearly see the difference between the old April rankings and the new August rankings based on the changes.

"They've changed the weightings, which is putting more emphasis on the maternal traits. That in turn will make some difference to some of the bulls," he said.

Under the changes, the half stars will be removed.

"It alludes to the fact this is a work in progress, people can think they're using the best possible maternal bull but as a bull gets used more his ratings can and do go down.

"It doesn't change very much from what we've said from the outset - that the genomics scheme is a good idea, but it is maybe too rigid and unforgiving in that you have to reach targets by 2018 and 2020," he said.

"Letters will be arriving to people with the cows in the scheme - it will make for interesting reading for those that are in the scheme. Some may be pleasantly surprised and some unpleasantly surprised.

"The fact the ratings can change doesn't mean the system is wrong - the more calvings to a bull the more you get to understand the system. It can be very irritating and frustrating to farmers."


Indo Farming