What are the Objectives of the G€N€ IR€LAND® Dairy Programme?

The objective of the programme is to test 70 bulls each year and that each bull would have 100 heifer replacements recorded in 100 herds, by year 4 of the programme.

Gene Ireland is focused on 3 key areas:

  1. Selection of High EBI Young Bulls.

AI companies receive details of registrations for male calves. Some of these calves are selected for genotyping and subsequently purchased dependent on genomic evaluation results, health checks and assessment of the dams EBI, functional type and recorded ancestry.

The key is to ensure the selection of these young bulls provides a good range of genetics, from a wide range of high EBI sires.

2008 was the first time that contract matings were implemented. NCBC in conjunction with Teagasc, Moorepark and the ICBF developed a new mating system, with the aim of identifying elite, high EBI Irish cows of unique pedigree, with proven performance for fertility and milk solids production and mating these cows to high EBI AI sires. The new procedure, developed by scientists at Moorepark, is designed to deliver the optimal panel of young bulls for Ireland while accounting for the growing concerns of inbreeding.

While a majority of the bulls that enter the Gene Ireland programme are sourced in Ireland a small number are also imported from overseas.

2. Progeny Testing the Young Bulls on a “Targeted” Set of Herds.

To progeny test 70 young bulls, 35,000 doses of semen are required to be used across a small number of ‘targeted’ herds, with the aim to obtain 100 milk-recorded heifers. Progeny testing bulls on a select group of targeted herds has the desired effect of increasing the reliability of the bull’s proof.

 There are a number of breed pack options available. For the spring this will generally consist of:

  • Holstein/Friesian (HO/FR),
  • Pure Friesian (FR),
  • Multi breed (combination of HO/FR, PURE FR & JEX).

Availability and content of these packs is dependent on the bulls put forward by the participating AI companies.

Dairy Gene Ireland Bulls 2024

The autumn programme consists primarily of Holstein/Friesian.

Test Group Allocations

Herd-owners do NOT get a choice of individual test bulls. The allocation of bulls per pack are chosen at random, but will represent a range of sires and have an average EBI as close to the overall group as possible (i.e. for Spring 2022 €350).

Test straws are available in packs of 35 straws (5 bulls x 7 straws), 49 straws (7 bulls x 7 straws), 70 straws (7 bulls x 10 straws) & 100 (10 bulls x 10 straws). There is no particular requirement on how these straws are used. This is up to the discretion of the herd-owner but all straws must be used in the assigned season.

Costs of Straws

There is a cost of €12 per straw, which will be charged directly by the organisation providing the AI service. Note that herd-owners that use the technician service will still incur the cost of the ‘arm service’ and visit fee.

Benefits to the Farmer

There are a number of benefits associated with using test bulls from the G€N€ IR€LAND® programme.

The most important one is the use of top genetic bulls that have been Genomically Selected and are available at a discounted rate. The introduction of Genomic Selection means the new G€N€ IR€LAND programme can increase genetic gain by 48% (€20 to €30/cow/year), and at a cost of €12 per straw, this is a fantastic deal.

Using young test bulls as part of this programme also means you’ve access to the latest genetics 1 year before the “young graduate” bulls are available and 4 years before “proven bulls”.

Other benefits include:

  • Linear scoring of some progeny test heifers and a sample of contemporaries:(Herds for linear scoring will be selected by ICBF, with herds containing greater numbers of test bull daughters being targeted, so not all herds will be scored.)
  • Potential Bull Mothers of the future.
  • Reduced cost of genotyping for uncalved dairy females (€18).

Requirements of a Progeny Test herd

Participating herds need to meet certain conditions regarding test bull usage and data recording.

It is essential that these herd-owners:

  • Use ALL their allocated G€N€ IR€LAND straws in the assigned AI season
  • Full participation in Animal Events i.e. record all inseminations and calving outcomes, including calving performance data, health & disease events, etc
  • Participation in approved milk recording – milk record their 2-year-olds approximately 4 times in their first lactation.

3. Elite Bulls are Returned to AI.

Through the efficient progeny testing of 70 young sires, new bulls will be appearing on the ICBF Active Bull list each year, thus giving farmers more variety to choose from, while at the same time increasing the average EBI of the group, leading to increased genetic gain for farmers.