In recent years we have added two new elements to the programme. Firstly,  a Dairy Beef section to progeny test high Dairy Beef Index bulls which are suitable for use on dairy cows. A Terminal section which contains beef bulls deemed suitable for use on suckler cows to produce profitable animals for sale or slaughter has also been added. Gene Ireland is the name of the national beef breeding programme which is operated by ICBF in close collaboration with various industry stakeholders. The primary aim of the programme is to identify, select and progeny test young high index beef bulls which will produce profitable replacements for the suckler industry.

The programme was relaunched in 2014 and in the intervening eight years some 135,000 straws from 269 different AI sires have been distributed to commercial herds in every corner of the country. In fact, 2021 saw the highest ever number of Gene Ireland straws dispatched when the total hit an impressive 24,000 straws for the first time. This equates to a testing capacity of almost 50 beef bulls per annum. The challenge to the cattle breeding industry is to ensure that this testing capacity is consistently filled with the highest index bulls available.

The identification of successful sires results in them then being returned to widespread AI and subsequently siring the next generation of animals which should in turn be genetically superior to their ancestors. A key pillar of the breeding programme is the repeatability of the exercise. Once 500 straws of a bull have been distributed, we immediately look to move on to the next bull. It is not about identifying one superstar sire but rather once one is identified, the search only intensifies to identify superior successors. This consistent approach is ultimately a key contributor to driving genetic gain in the national herd.

The sires distributed over the years have been some of the highest €uro-Star index bulls available in Ireland and many of them have gone on to have a significant impact on the national herd. Within the overall total, the 10 sires which have produced the most progeny are displayed in Table 1 below.


Table 1. 10 GI Tested Sires with the most progeny in the ICBF Database

ZAG CASTLEVIEW GAZELLE LM Yes 2014 105281 €117 €121 €101 38
HE2043 SOLPOLL 1 KENTUCKY KID P HE No 2015 43159 €109 €43 €40 10
LM2014 EWDENVALE IVOR LM No 2015 23676 €184 €162 €146 27
LM4217 MOONDHARRIG KNELL LM Yes 2017 23258 €144 €122 €104 16
AA4089 INTELAGRI MATTEO (ET) AA Yes 2017 19989 €123 €79 €108 14
AA2123 CHRISTON ELTON P623 AA No 2016 16957 €112 €57 €79 12
AA4088 INTELAGRI MAVERICK (ET) AA Yes 2017 14637 €123 €89 €108 10
AA2025 STEIL KNOCKRANNY 248 AA Yes 2015 14375 €167 €72 €94 18
HE4297 FABB 1 NORTHERN STAR HE No 2017 13895 €125 €66 €67 11
OKH KELTIC HANDSOME LM Yes 2014 13185 €141 €120 €76 26


If you are interested in joining the 850 herdowners that are actively using Gene Ireland beef straws, please contact ICBF on 045 521573 or email [email protected] and we will happily discuss your requirements in more detail.