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The future of Irish Beef Breeding

ICBF is launching its new Gene Ireland Maternal Progeny Test Programme for Spring 2014 in conjunction with the Irish beef breed societies and partner AI companies. The long term objective of the programme is to reverse the decline in maternal traits, such as milk and fertility, in the national suckler herd (see Figure 1) and to help deliver consistent, measurable genetic gain in beef breeding. This will be done by identifying high Replacement Index bulls in pedigree beef herds and carrying out comprehensive progeny testing on these bulls. The bulls will be tested in commercial herds and ICBF is looking for farmers to sign up to the programme and use this semen.

Figure 1. Decline in maternal traits in national suckler herd since 2000.

Where will these bulls be sourced?

ICBF launched an elite breeding programme for pedigree beef herds in late 2012 called the Gene Ireland Maternal Bull Breeder Programme. Participating herds have undertaken to record high levels of accurate data on their animals and also to place more emphasis on maternal traits when choosing bulls to mate with their cows. Bulls tested through the Maternal Progeny Test Programme will be sourced from these herds. Some AI company owned bulls that meet certain criteria may also be tested through the programme.

Some of the young bulls purchased by G€N€ IR€LAND for progeny testing in Spring 2014.


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How exactly will the programme work?

The pedigree herds participating in the Maternal Bull Breeder Programme will be continuously monitored for the presence of high Replacement Index bulls. The best of these bulls will be selected by breed committees which have been assembled by ICBF for each of the 11 participating beef breeds. These selected bulls will then be purchased by Gene Ireland and placed in an AI stud. 1,000 doses of semen will be taken from each bull, of which 500 doses will be used in commercial herds for progeny testing. Once tested, the remaining 500 doses from the most successful bulls will be used on pedigree cows to breed the next generation of elite test sires and stock bulls. In time, this will result in a steady increase in the average index of the bulls being tested every year. This is similar to the rise in EBI experienced in the dairy Gene Ireland Programme, where the average EBI of test bulls has increased from €81 in 2005, to €304 in 2014.

What are the benefits for commercial farmers that sign up?

The most obvious benefit for a commercial farmer that participates in the programme is the access to top quality maternal genetics that it will offer. The main objective of the programme is to improve maternal traits, therefore for farmers who wish to breed their own replacements and where AI is a viable option, the programme is very attractive. Other benefits include:

  • Semen available at a reduced price of €5 per straw.
  • Participating in G€N€ IR€LAND satisfies a BTAP task (Task 3B).
  • Free weighing of progeny by an ICBF weighing technician.
  • Potential to sell weanlings back to ICBF for progeny testing in the Tully Test Centre, Co. Kildare.
  • Choice of whichever bulls and breeds you want.


G€N€ IR€LAND progeny on performance test in the Tully Test Centre, Co. Kildare.
G€N€ IR€LAND progeny on performance test in the Tully Test Centre, Co. Kildare.

Who will carry out the inseminations?

Your AI technician will carry out the inseminations. When ordering straws simply nominate your local technician and the straws will be delivered to them. You will be billed for the inseminations by your AI company as normal.

Picture3What if I do DIY AI?

DIY farmers can also be accommodated. When ordering your straws simply nominate your AI company area representative/ technician and the straws will be delivered to your pot by them. You will be billed for the straws by the AI company.

If improving maternal traits is a priority for you and AI is a viable option in your herd, then the Maternal Progeny Test Programme will provide you with the genetics to do just that. For more information please call 1850 600 900 or email [email protected].