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The Dairy Beef Index (DBI) is a breeding goal for Irish dairy and beef farmers to promote high quality beef cattle bred from the dairy herd that are more saleable as calves and profitable at slaughter yet, they have minimal consequences on the calving difficulty or gestation length of the dairy cow. The DBI was developed by ICBF and Teagasc and just launched this week.

The on-farm benefits of using the DBI compared to traditional selection of beef bulls

Why we need a Dairy Beef Index?

The dairy herd is expanding, and it is benefitting from improvements in cow fertility, due predominantly to genetic gain arising from the Economic Breeding Index (EBI). Such changes have resulted in an increased number of dairy male calves and the increased usage of beef bulls in the dairy herd.

Dairy farmers predominantly select beef bulls that have a short gestation length and are easy calving, without considering the beef carcass merit of the resulting calves; therefore, the quality and viability of Irish beef production is at risk of deterioration.

A recent analysis of beef cattle slaughtered in Irish factories (Figure 1) revealed that many cattle bred from dairy dams did not meet the minimum carcass weight or carcass conformation specifications. Improving the quality of beef cattle from the dairy herd will generate economic benefits for all involved in the beef supply chain.

Figure 1. Average performance of beef cattle bred from to dairy dams that were slaughtered between 2004 and 2018

The Dairy Beef Index (DBI) ranks beef bulls, for use in the dairy herd, according to their genetic merit for a range of calving performance and carcass performance traits. The overall DBI is expressed in euros (€). Each €1 increase in DBI can be interpreted as a €1 expected increase in profit for that bull’s progeny compared to progeny born to the average Holstein-Friesian bull.

Figure 2. Relative emphasis of the traits included in the Dairy Beef Index (Spring 2019)

The Dairy Beef Index (DBI) provides a simple method of identifying beef bulls that are both easy calving and short gestation. In addition, progeny sired by high DBI bulls generate a higher calf price and they have better carcass performance than progeny sired by beef bulls that were simply used for their ease of calving and short gestation.

What animals have a Dairy Beef Index and where can I find it?

For Spring 2019, only beef AI bulls that have ≥30 progeny in dairy herds (i.e., born to dairy dams)  have a Dairy Beef Index (DBI) which is published under ‘Genetic Evaluations’ – ‘Dairy/Beef Results’. Over time, the DBI will be made available for all beef bulls (AI and stock bulls) and it will be incorporated into the Animal Search tool, profiles, and other reports etc.

For more information on DBI please click here 

Click here to view the Active Dairy Beef Index List (January 2019)