As breeding decisions are being made on spring-calving dairy farms across Ireland, the choice of artificial insemination (AI) and stockbulls will greatly impact the genetic merit of the 2024 national calf crop. With an increasing use of sexed semen, farmers are placing a greater focus on high-genetic-merit beef bulls that have an acceptable level of calving difficulty and gestation length, while still producing a saleable calf with good beef value.
However, searching for a bull’s figures can be a daunting task for many farmers. As part of the Advantage Spring Dairy-Beef Series, ABP Food Group’s Advantage Beef Programme farm liaison officer Oisin Lynch has explained how sire information can be quickly sourced. Sire information is available to any farmer across the country on the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation’s (ICBF’s) Animal Search. Farmers can simply enter ‘ICBF Animal Search’ to their internet search bar and click on the relevant page. From here, a farmer can search an AI code or a stockbull and view the respective animal’s figures.
Oisin emphasised the importance of looking at a bull’s sub-index values, in addition to its Dairy Beef Index (DBI) value. He advised dairy farmers to pick a team of beef bulls for their cows, taking into account the maximum calving difficulty threshold, which will vary with heifers, second calvers and mature cows. Dairy farmers should remember this when selecting their team of beef bulls for the 2023 breeding season. While dairy farmers tend to prioritise gestation and calving difficulty figures, the farmers who are rearing these calves for beef are more focused on the carcass weight value of the sire.
According to Oisin, the breed-average carcass figure for Hereford sires is 4kg, but the AI sire HE5806 has a carcass value that is a substantial 12kg above the breed average. He emphasised that farmers who prioritise better-genetic beef bulls will have progeny with better carcass performance. “Now is the time to take a look at these figures. Don’t select your sires on DBI alone, look at the beef sub index and carcass figures. Small changes can make a big difference in producing a more marketable calf”.
In conclusion, it is important for dairy farmers to carefully consider the genetic merit of the AI and stockbulls they use in order to produce a more marketable calf. By taking advantage of the ICBF Animal Search and carefully examining a bull’s sub-index and carcass figures, farmers can make informed decisions that will have a positive impact on their breeding season.