Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 February 2018

Wanted: Elite dairy heifers

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

ICBF and Teagasc are scouring the country for Ireland's best maiden heifers to complete its 'next generation' dairy herd.

Some 77 of the highest EBI health-tested heifers have already been bought for the elite dairy herd, which will be located at the Teagasc Kilworth farm.

The maiden heifers have an average EBI of €212, more than €100 higher than the national average and significantly higher than the best EBI herds in Ireland. However, 13 more heifers are required to bring the elite herd total to 90 heifers.

A further 50 'control' heifers will be run alongside the elite herd. Eleven of the 50 control heifers have already been purchased and this herd will have an EBI close to the national average of €100.

The elite heifers were bought from farmers at an average cost of around €1,800, with the price based on their individual EBI figures. The herd consists of daughters from a range of sires, with a maximum of seven daughters per sire.

Teagasc researcher Sinead McParland said the aim of the project is to ensure that farmers using genomically selected bulls would breed cows that would be suitable for conditions here.

"Genomics has increased the speed of selection dramatically and we need to make sure that by breeding for certain traits, we do not introduce other negative traits," she explained.

"This elite herd is the next generation to what is typically on farms at the moment so we will find out before farmers what the advantages and disadvantages of these heifers are."

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Research on the new elite herd will focus on fertility, greenhouse gas emission and disease resistance. A high culling rate will be implemented on the Kilworth unit so that the herd remains one step ahead of the national average. Pregnancy scanning of the elite herd began last week.

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