As 2014 draws to a close, it is a good opportunity to reflect back on the year that was, for ICBF.
The headline project at ICBF early in the year was the Beef Genomics Scheme. Over 35,000 farmers joined the scheme, and at farm level, farmers responded extremely well to the job of tagging the stock bull, and a number of cows. The quality of DNA extracted in the lab was extremely high. It augurs well for the follow-on programme in 2015. As part of the research work, a major Beef Genomics Conference was held in Dublin in November, the first InterBeef workshop of its kind. We look forward to the first of the genomic evaluations for beef starting to appear in the second half of 2015.
Adoption of dairy genomics at farm level continues to grow. In 2014 over 60%, up from 50% in 2013, of some 650,000 recorded dairy inseminations were from genomically selected bulls. The results from both the Next Generation Herd in Moorepark, and the ‘Daughter Proven’ results continue to show that the genomic predictions are holding up well across the teams of genomic bulls. The AI companies continue to invest very significantly in genotyping, ensuring that the best possible selection of young bulls are going into the Gene Ireland programme for progeny testing. This is key to the on-going validation of the genomic indexes.
Our genetic evaluation activities continue to be at the very heart of ICBF’s role in dairy and beef. The extra data collected through the Beef Data Programme and other initiatives coupled with improvements in our evaluation methods has resulted in a substantial improvement in the accuracy of our beef genetic evaluations. The evaluations continue, however, to be at the mercy of good quality data for real progress to be made. We have seen good uptake of the Eurostars on the terminal side, but there is still significant progress to be made in terms of using the Eurostars to help choose female replacements. The on-going roll-out of the Beef Genomics Scheme will play a key role in improving progress here.
The G€N€ IR€LAND dairy progeny test program continued in 2014. The implementation of a revamped G€N€ IR€LAND beef programme continued in 2014, and the roll-out of this will continue in 2015, with the first progeny being born next spring. Another element of the ICBF infrastructure that has continued to make great strides in 2014 is the Tully Performance Test station. The installation of the new feeding system early in 2014 has allowed us to begin testing steers as part of the process, and the investment in the feeding system continues with the help of DAFM. Tully is now also providing a rich stream of data in the area of meat eating quality, and the results emerging have great potential in continuing to position Ireland as producers of top quality beef.
HerdPlus membership has exceeded 17,800 dairy and beef herds. These herds have access to a wide range of valuable breeding information which farmers can use to breed more profitable cattle. On the service income side, both Milk Recording and AI service income rebounded well after a difficult 2013, thanks to excellent work by the service providers. Our Bull Search facility (on www.icbf.com) continues to be the facility on our website that farmers and breeders find most useful with, again, over 1,000,000 searches in the last twelve months.
We continue to do signficant development work in conjunction with Animal Health Ireland (AHI) in the area of IT infrastructure for management of the BVD programme. Significant progress was also made in relation to the CellCheck and Johnes programmes. ICBF’s ability to generate genetic evaluations for animals in relation to disease resistance is becoming an increasingly important area, and initial results are showing significant potential for genetics to assist with national animal health programmes. As such, our relationship with AHI will continue to be extremely important.
2014 saw the continuation of the OptiMIR partnership focusing on the use of spectral data from milk testing, and involving ICBF, Teagasc and 15 other partners across Europe. The project is focusing on making good use of the extra data (the MIR spectra) that can be collected from milk sample testing.
Irish farming benefits greatly from the unique partnership that exists between Government and the industry. The ability of ICBF to put DAFM funding to good use is widely acknowledged and in 2014 was particularly evident again through the progress being made across a range of areas, and adoption by farmers. Without DAFM support it would be much more difficult for ICBF to deliver so much benefit to the industry and wider community, through the services it provides.
2014 has been another very exciting year in the cattle breeding community. There are many challenges ahead, but also lots of opportunity. The key to ICBF’s success remains the same as ever – the application of good science, a focus on the needs of farmers, working closely with our stakeholders and a 100% commitment to delivering by a talented and dedicated team. We are most fortunate to operate in an environment where ICBF’s vision is shared by our Board, our members, DAFM, Teagasc, and, most importantly, Irish Farmers.
We would like to thank everybody for their contribution during the year and we look forward to another very productive year in 2015. We will close for Christmas on Tuesday 23rd December and return on Friday 2nd January 2015.
Wishing you all the Best for Christmas and the coming Year