ICBF recently passed an important milestone with over 2 million cattle having a valid genotype. It only seems like yesterday that we were reporting on passing the 1 million genotype milestone in 2017. This represents an increase of 1 million valid genotypes in less than 3 years.

This level of genotyping would not have been possible without the support of the Irish farmers, herdbooks, AI companies, and the DAFM.  The impact of the BGS and BDGP schemes can be seen in graph 1 below that plots the growth of genotypes from 2011 to today.

Genomics has revolutionised the cattle breeding industry in Ireland and globally over the past number of years. Through genotyping, significant genetic gain can be achieved, animals’ potential can be determined earlier and more accurately, and new, economically important traits can be identified. Despite the profitability and environmental challenges that are now ever-present, Irish farmers have been proactively involved in schemes and pilot programmes such as the Beef Data & Genomics Programme (BDGP), DNA Calf Registration and Greenbreed. As a result, the ICBF database now holds over 1.85 million valid genotypes for beef cattle, the largest beef genotype database in the world.

The introduction of genomic evaluation services for all dairy breeds as opposed to just Holstein Friesian, will help to further increase the uptake of dairy genotyping across the country. This in turn should complement the already high levels of genotyping on the beef side.

This level of genotyping allows Ireland to have an extremely accurate pedigree; quickly analyse newly reported genetic traits and defects; reduce genetic disease risk; and provide insights into the genomics of fertility, feed efficiency, and disease resistance.  Overall this level of genotyping will continue to allow Ireland to have a major impact on food sustainability, farmer livelihood, and environmental impact.

Graph 1. ICBF Animals Genotyped


Over 1 million live genotyped animals in the national cattle herd

With the latest genetic evaluations just published, Ireland now has over one million dairy and beef cattle with a genotype. This marks a new milestone for genetic improvement in Ireland and certainly puts us in a good position to further increase the rate of genetic gain we have been achieving over the last number of years.

Table 1 below is a snapshot of the National Herd taken on 24th May, 2020. It shows that of the 6.53 million animals currently alive in the ICBF database, 1,038,716 have been genotyped. As can be seen, most of these genotyped animals come from the beef herd with 58% of suckler cows now genotyped. This is as a direct result of the BDGP scheme where participating herds have seen gains been made in all the key performance indicators, such as calving interval and calves per cow per year.

Of the 1,038,716 animals genotyped, 779,605 have their sire genotyped and 608,606 have their dam genotyped.  The number of animals with both a sire and dam verified through genotyping stands at 542,079.

Sire Recording

When it comes to sire recording, 73% of the national herd has a sire recorded. While this is not a bad figure to have, there is certainly room for improvement, especially with beef calves from the dairy herd where only 45% of commercial males and 55% of females have a recorded sire. We would encourage dairy farmers to record sires on these animals also as they will have a direct benefit to the beef sector in terms of extra data to be included in genetic evaluations. This benefit will ultimately feedback to help dairy farmers decision making when it comes to purchasing their next stock bull or AI straw.

Below is a more detailed description of the six main columns from Table 1 above.

1. Num. Total number alive animals in this category
2. Genotyped Total number alive animals in this category which have a genotype
3. With Sire Total number alive animals in this category with a recorded sire
4. Geno & Sire Geno Total number alive animals in this category with a recorded sire and both the animal and sire are genotyped
5. Geno & Dam Geno Total number alive animals in this category where both the animal and its dam are genotyped
6. Animal/Sire/Dam Geno Total number alive animals in this category where the animal and both its Sire and Dam are genotyped

Animal Category Note: Both Dairy and Beef Stock bulls are defined as either having progeny and/or >24 months old and with a pedigree name.