With the introduction of the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme (BEEP) in 2019 and the Dairy Beef Calf Programme in 2021, over 3 million valid cow and calf weights have been recorded. Since 2019, 3,178,272 BEEP & BEEP-S weights have been recorded with 174,644 Dairy Beef Calf weights being recorded since 2021. This is a huge milestone for the national herd.
On beef farms, the number one performance metric is live weight. Without measuring this through weighing animals we have no way to accurately access how breeds and bloodlines are performing.
The Replacement index is made up of 6 main parts; (1) Fertility, (2) Milk, (3) Feed Intake, (4) Beef, (5) Calving and (6) Docility. Weights recorded on suckler cows & calves through BEEP-S have an impact on Milk, Feed Intake and Beef traits within the index. This accounts for nearly 60% of an animal’s Replacement Index. Until the introduction of BEEP, data on mature cow weights and calf weaning weight was scarce and largely relied on factory and mart weights. The huge uptake in on-farm weight recording has given us an opportunity to further improve the reliability of the Replacement Index and allow farmers to make more informed breeding decisions. Likewise, the Terminal Index is heavily influenced by on farm weights, with over 70% of the index being based on weight. A common criticism of ICBF’s Estimated Breeding Values (EBV’s) has been the predicted performance does not match what happens on farm, however accurate on-farm weights are going a long way to ease this complaint.
Different breeding programmes around the world would typically purchase daughters of AI bulls and run them in one group in a specific ‘station’ farm to find out which bull’s daughters are the best for milk and fertility. That’s fine however it can often happen that the daughters of a bull ranked number 1 in the ‘station’ environment doesn’t do as well out on-farm. This is because they are not being tested in the same environment that they will be asked to perform in. The BEEP scheme has allowed us to evaluate the daughters of AI bulls and Stockbulls in the exact same environment in which they will have to perform in i.e. on Irish farms. Also, obviously in terms of what it can tell us from an environmental point of view, the benefits of BEEP are huge.
What are the benefits of weighing cattle?
Weighing cattle is an important management tool within any herd. It provides accurate, animal-specific performance data which allows farmers to make more informed decisions – helping to improve both the productivity and efficiency of their cattle herd.
- Monitor Animal Performance – Regularly weighing cattle allows their performance to be assessed. This information can be used to highlight whether animals are meeting their daily liveweight gain targets and indicates management areas that may require attention.
- Improve Animal Health – Regularly weighing cattle may help to identify any underlying health issues at a very early stage. Underperforming animals who are failing to meet their growth targets can be easily identified and investigation carried out to determine the cause. Weighing cattle also allows for accurate administration of veterinary treatments. This helps prevent any under or overdosing of animals, which is beneficial in minimising the risk of antibiotic resistance occurring on farm.
- Forecast Optimum Time for Sale – Regular weighing of cattle allows stock to be sold/slaughtered at the optimum weight grade, ensuring maximum profitability.
How do I record weights?
- ICBF weight recording mobile app.
- Online Services on icbf.com – Log In – ‘Services’ – ‘BEEP-S or Dairy Beef Programme’ – ‘Record Weights’.
- Farm Software package.
- Record on Animal Events notebook and transfer online afterwards.
- Weight Recording Form (if online is not an option). These can be requested from ICBF (023-8832883)
Recording Weights on ICBF
Links to download ICBF Weight recording app:
Scales can be rented through 100 depots spread across the country in Co-Ops, Marts and FRS offices. Scales rented through the mybeep system are automatically linked to your herd. To hire a scales, go to mybeep.ie. Please note: availability may be limited in the final few weeks so it is imperative to book your scales asap.