What is the Dairy Gene Ireland Programme?

The dairy Gene Ireland programme has been running for some years now with great success. The purpose of the programme is to test young genomically selected bulls for the dairy herd and we have seen large gains in the EBI, year on year as AI companies have continuously put their best foot forward when selecting bulls. The average EBI of the 2022 Dairy Gene Ireland bull team was €325 and compromised of Holstein Friesen (HO), Pure Friesian (FR) and multibreed (HO/FR, Pure FR and JEX) packs.

The purpose of the dairy gene Ireland programme is simple; to test young bulls for AI companies, find and select high EBI sires and to ensure an accelerated rate of genetic gain for the Irish dairy herd. Farmers who opt into the dairy gene Ireland programme are not only helping AI companies find the next Kilfeacle Pivotal, but they are gaining access to the latest genetics, accelerating the growth of their own herd.

As calves are born on farm this Spring, AI companies will receive the details such as the ancestry and parental average EBI. With this information they will often request for the breeder to genotype a bull calf. Once the genotype has been received and evaluated they will place an offer with the farmer to buy the bull calf. Once bought, the calf will be reared by the AI company and eventually jumped for semen. These young bulls that are bought in the spring are often used on farm the following year during the breeding season.

To progeny test 70 young bulls, 35,000 doses of semen are required to be used across a small number of ‘targeted’ herds, with the aim to obtain 100 milk-recorded heifers. Progeny testing bulls on a select group of targeted herds has the desired effect of increasing the reliability of the bull’s proof.

So why would you use dairy gene Ireland bulls?

First and foremost these bulls are the highest quality genetics in the national herd and participants will be receiving access to the future daughter proven bulls sooner than any other farmers. The average EBI of the GI  bulls will always be significantly higher than the bulls on the active bull list.  This will increase the genetic gain of your herd and increase your productivity and profitability. All daughter proven bulls were once unproven sires and had to be tested, and many of the best bulls in Ireland started in the Dairy Gene Ireland programme.

There is a large monetary benefit to using GI straws, at €12/head you are getting superior genetics into your herd for excellent value for money. With this investment farmers can see an increase in profitability by €20-€30/cow/year.

The programme has been massively successful to date, which has meant that the majority of bulls on the active bull list are Irish bred.

Participants of the Dairy GI programme can avail of a discount when genotyping heifers. Currently the cost of genotyping is €22/head. As a member of GI you can genotype all your uncalved heifers for as little as €18/head. This saving of €4/head can offset the price of the GI straws and you can begin to genotype out your herd. Genotyping provides herdowners with accurate parentage and increased reliability in the EBI and with this increase in accuracy and confirmed parentage you can reduce the risk of breeding animals that may be incorrectly sired and keep the replacements with the highest EBI.

How Can I become a GI participant?

Straws are available in packs of 35 (5 bulls x 7 straws), 49 (7 bulls x 7 straws), 70 (7 bulls x 10 straws and 100 (10 bulls x 10 straws), with packs then made available up to a maximum of 35% of your dairy straw requirement. Packs are distributed to participating herds through sales reps or AI technicians.

All that is needed from participants is that they record the inseminations accurately, sire and calving ease and provide health information on the daughters of these GI sires.

If you are interested in ordering a pack of straws, please complete one of the following 3 steps:

  • Sign-up online through the Gene Ireland Sign-Up screen by logging into your HerdPlus account and selecting ‘Services’ – ‘Gene Ireland Sign-up’.
  • Complete the enclosed Sign-up Form and return in the FREEPOST envelope provided. Alternatively, a scanned copy can be emailed to [email protected]
  • Call the ICBF HerdPlus team on 023 8820452.