BDGP star rating movements as expected

ICBF says BDGP is excellent success for beef farmers

BDGP star rating movements as expected

Stephen Cadogan

What the Beef Data and Genomics Programme does for the suckler beef industry has been defended by ICBF, the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation.

ICBF says the suckler beef industry was at a low ebb when the BDGP arrived in 2015.

Calves/cow/year languished at 0.79, and farmers said their suckler cows had gone too big, and had lost a lot of the milk yield potential which is so important in profitable weanling production.

Now, there are 24,000 farmers and 550,000 cows in the BDGP, about 55% of the total suckler beef cow herd.

With both maternal and terminal traits improving in the national suckler herd, it is becoming clear that the BDGP is an excellent success for the Department of Agriculture, ICBF, Teagasc, the beef breeding industry, and beef farmers.

What are the BDGP highlights for sucklers?

There have been significant improvements in key maternal traits.

Key metrics such as calves/cow/year, calving interval, and age at first calving are all moving in the right direction.

The most notable example is calves/cow/year, from 0.8 in 2014 to 0.87 IN 2017.

This represents an additional 40,000 calves for sale from the 24,000 BDGP herds, worth €30m as weanlings to the participating beef farmers.

National figures have moved from 0.79 to 0.85 calves/cow/year.

What does the rising genetic trend mean for BDGP farmers?

This gain is worth €80m to participating beef farmers (in terms of current and future profitability from four and five star females, with an expectation it will rise to some €600m by 2030, when cumulative benefits are fully realised.

These benefits flow to non-BDGP herds too, indirectly accruing the benefits of better replacement heifers and breeding bulls.

What about beef from the suckler herd?

There has been steady improvement in carcass output from the suckler herd.

Data from processors shows a steady increase, with no decline in quality, over five years.

Furthermore, these animals are being slaughtered younger (22 days younger on average).

Similar trends are apparent for dairy-beef and dairy bred animals.

Carcass weight fell 4.5kg nationally from 2016 to 2017, but this is due to the expanding dairy herd, where carcasses are 60kg lighter, lighter on average, leading to overall reduction in carcass output/animal for the beef industry.

What do five-star cows do for farmers?

Validation work by Teagasc and ICBF on 46 participating commercial beef farms in the past three years confirmed that five-star cows are more fertile, lighter (thereby requiring less feed), have more milk (for a heavier weanling), produce a heavier carcass, and are more carbon efficient, compared to one-star cows on the same farms.

What about changes in star ratings in the BDGP, and use of non-pedigree bulls and dairy bred stock?

The movement in star ratings is completely consistent with expectations, with 75% of the four and five-star parity one females (95,268 in total) at the start of the scheme (May 2015 evaluation), still four and five-star three years later.

Only 1% of these animals moved from five-star to one-star (and vice versa), with the majority of these due to pedigree changes as a consequence of genotyping.

This should give farmers further confidence that by selecting replacement females based on genomic replacement index, they can be confident that these animals will deliver additional profit in the future.

Less than 1% of the 15,638 breeding males on BDGP farms (with a registered progeny) are non-pedigree bulls. This is consistent with ICBF’s strategy of delivering genetic improvement within each of the relevant breeds, through programmes such as Whole Herd Performance Recording and G€n€ Ir€land.

BDGP participants are focused on ensuring that when purchasing breeding males, they maximise the accuracy of their selection decision.

As for dairy-bred stock, contrary to some views expressed, the percentage of first crosses from the dairy herd entering the suckler herd as replacement females has declined over the last number of years, from 26% in 2012, to 23% for 2017.

This confirms that scheme participants are preferring to use genomics within their own herds to select their replacement females. BDGP and sucklers

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