A database is a collection of information organised in such a way that a computer program can quickly select desired pieces of data. You can think of a database as an electronic filing system.
In order to identify the most profitable animals in genetic terms, there are two critical elements:
1. Ancestry data (i.e. Sire and Dam).
2. Performance data (i.e. how well animals performed in various aspects).
The ICBF database stores all this information in one location.
Where does the data come from?
Ancestry data comes from two main sources:
- Calf Registration – in order to get an animal passport, a farmer indicates the sex, date of birth, dam of the calf, and since the introduction of Animal Events, the sire information.
- Herd-books – who have been maintaining the ancestry of pedigree animals for many years.
Performance data comes from a wide variety of sources.
- Dairy animal performance data comes from
- a. Milk Recording organisations (Milk, Fat, Protein, SCC).
- b. Calf registration (Calving Interval – how long since the last calving;
Survival – how many calves has a cow had;
Calving performance – how easy/difficult are the calvings from a particular bull).
- c. Slaughter Factories (Culled cow weights/grades, fattened animal weights/grades).
- d. Linear scoring data – used as a predictor of survival.
- Beef animal performance data comes from
- a. Calf registration (as above).
- b. Weaning weights and linear scores.
- c. Slaughter Factories (as above).
What is Animal Events?
The system for recording information on farms is termed “Animal Events”. The principle of Animal Events is that farmers should record information once only and that all cattle breeding organisations would then have access to this data for the purpose of providing cattle breeding services to the farmer. Having one standard system removes any unnecessary duplication of time and expense on behalf of both the farmer and the service organisations, i.e. the principle of “single point of entry and no duplication”.
Farmers can contribute data to the database either by filling an Animal Event Booklet or electronically transferring the relevant data using approved farm computer packages.
What did the ICBF database replace?
The map below shows the location of the different organisations that use the ICBF cattle breeding database on a daily basis. They are linked to the database through various means of telecommunications. Before the establishment of the ICBF database, almost all of these organisations had a separate database of their own. Obviously, there has been a massive reduction in duplication of data.
What are the benefits of the database for farmers?
- Reduced administration. Prior to the establishment of the central database, a farmer had to potentially provide the same data to many different organisations (e.g. calving/ancestry details had to be provided to the Dept of Agriculture, a herd-book, and possibly a milk-recording organisation). Now, because all organisations share the one database, farmers need only submit this information once.
- Increased management information. Using the data the farmers submit to the database, ICBF can generate useful management information, with national comparisons, to enable farmers make more informed decisions at farm level.
- Increased genetic gain. In an era of ever decreasing margins on farms, maximising the profit through genetic gain is critical to maintaining incomes on Irish farms. The ICBF database is providing Irish agriculture with the information to achieve this gain.