This is the clear trend from analysis of the ICBF ‘5 Year Trend’ reports which were sent to 24,500 herds participating in BDGP earlier this spring. The report focuses on 6 key performance indicators (KPI’s) for a suckler herd’s genetic and reproductive performance. These are:

  1. Replacement Index – Cows
  2. Replacement Index – 1st Calvers
  3. Average Calving Interval
  4. Calves/Cow/Year
  5. Heifers Calved 22-26 months
  6. Six-week calving rate

The report tracks the progress of herds over a 5-year period. In the current analysis this period was from 2014-2018. Table 1 details the average improvements which BDGP herds have made over this time.

2014 2018 Difference
1 Replacement Index – Cows (€) 76 82 6
2 Replacement Index – 1st Calvers (€) 70 85 15
3 Calving Interval (days) 408 397 -11
4 Calves/Cow/Yr 0.79 0.84 0.05
5 Heifers Caved 22-26 Mts (%) 15 22 7
6 Six Week Calving Rate (%) 52 53 1

Table 1. Progress of BDGP herd from 2014-2018 on genetic and reproductive KPI’s.

Non-BDGP Herds

Statistics were also generated for suckler herds not participating in BDGP as part of the analysis. Table 2 details the average improvements for non-BDGP herds and shows that the rates of gain are lower than those of BDGP herds.

2014 2018 Difference
1 Replacement Index – Cows (€) 76 78 2
2 Replacement Index – 1st Calvers (€) 70 79 9
3 Calving Interval (days) 418 411 -7
4 Calves/Cow/Yr 0.74 0.79 0.05
5 Heifers Caved 22-26 Mts (%) 13 17 4
6 Six Week Calving Rate (%) 60 62 2

Table 2. Progress of non-BDGP herds from 2014-2018 on genetic and reproductive KPI’s.

Positive impact of BDGP

Herds participating in the BDGP are experiencing higher rates of gain than non-BDGP herds across a number of KPI’s as detailed in Table 3. Gains on Replacement Index of both cows and first calvers are €4 and €6 higher respectively. BDGP herds have improved calving interval by 4 days more with calves/cow/year increasing at the same rate, though non-BDGP herds are coming from a lower base. The percentage of heifers calved 22-26 months has improved by 3% more in BDGP herds. There is very little move on six-week calving rate across both sets of herds. This is a new KPI in the beef calving report and is a relatively new concept to many beef farmers. The six-week calving rate is higher in non-BDGP herds, but it has to be noted that these herds are significantly smaller with an average of 16 cows versus an average of 26 cows in BDGP herds. Smaller herds have an advantage when it comes to achieving a high six-week calving rate.

Rates of Gain 2014-2018
1 Replacement Index – Cows (€) 6 2
2 Replacement Index – 1st Calvers (€) 15 9
3 Calving Interval (days) -11 -7
4 Calves/Cow/Yr 0.05 0.05
5 Heifers Caved 22-26 Mts (%) 7 4
6 Six Week Calving Rate (%) 1 2

Table 3. Differences in rates of gain between BDGP and non-BDGP herds.

Change in herd size

It is interesting to note the change in cow numbers in the period. BDGP herds had an average of 26 cows in 2018, an increase of 2 over the 2014 average of 24 cows. Non-BDGP herds have decreased in size over the same period with the average herd falling to 16 cows in 2018 from 17 cows in 2014.

Early days

The BDGP was launched in June 2015. Replacement heifers bred on the back of better breeding decisions since the start of the programme are now starting to calve down, therefore this analysis gives a very early picture of where the BDGP is taking the national suckler herd. As more and more high index replacements enter the national herd and the upward trajectory of the Replacement Index continues, further significant gains should be made in key efficiency metrics such as calving interval and calves/cow/year.

The 5-Year Trend report is available to all BDGP and HerdPlus herds through online services at If you have any queries on this report, please contact ICBF on 023-8832883 or email [email protected].