Farm Ireland

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Major cattle breeding reform on the agenda

More AI stations among a raft of radical ICBF suggestions

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

The introduction of multiple AI collection centres using bulls leased from breeders is among a raft of suggestions contained in a discussion document issued by the ICBF. The nine-point discussion document, seen by the Farming Independent, outlines issues for potential changes to the cattle breeding industry.

The document has been distributed to breed societies, AI companies and other stakeholders in recent days.

According to the ICBF, genetic gain has the potential to return €236m to the dairy industry and €60m to the beef industry.

However, capitalising on the full benefits of genomics would require alterations to the conventional AI-focused models, the document says.

The key objectives of any future breeding programme would include maximising long-term genetic gain, providing resources for research and development and minimising the risk of problems such as disease and inbreeding.

Up for discussion is the role of ICBF in identifying elite cows for a breeding programme and providing mating advice to farmers.

Leasing and ownership of bulls is also on the agenda, including the option that AI companies move away from the ownership of bulls in favour of a leasing arrangement with bull breeders.

Multiple rearing units, AI collection centres and semen distribution agents, strategically located across the country, are among the topics of discussion.

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The opportunity for new AI collection and semen distribution agents to be licensed has also been mooted.

Sharing costs and benefits across the cattle breeding industry has been included in the discussion document. The example given is that the breeder pays for all costs of owning and rearing bulls, including genotyping, while the AI company leases a bull from the breeder for a semen collection period of several months and the bull is then returned to the farmer.

The AI company distributes semen, with the breeder receiving a margin on straw sales and additional payment if the bull is returned as a 'sire of sons'. The AI company would retain a margin for semen collection, processing and distribution.

The continuation of the G€N€ IR€LAND programme would be up for discussion, as would the principle that herdbooks would be more directly involved in the breeding programme.

A more direct role in the breeding programme for stakeholders such as Animal Health Ireland is also on the agenda.

Commenting on the discussion document, ICBF chief executive Brian Wickham insisted it was not a blueprint or proposal for the industry. "This is purely a discussion document," he said.

It is understood that meetings between the IBCF and stakeholders will continue in the coming weeks.

Irish Independent