Gene Ireland Beef Programme Update

Since the inception of the Gene Ireland programme a total of 216 beef bulls have been involved. In 2012 the focus moved to selecting bulls with even stronger maternal traits, in response to a decline in milk and fertility in the Irish Suckler herd. These bulls have been selected, via the Gene Ireland committees, based on their potential to deliver in two key areas. Firstly, to produce heifers which are fertile and will have an adequate level of milk and secondly, to produce a heifer that will deliver a calf with good beef attributes for traits such as good growth rate and conformation.

G€N€ IR€LAND programme proving a success.

Early results are very positive for the bulls which had semen dispatched in Spring 2014. These were the first bulls selected by the Gene Ireland breed committees and are now hitting the >60% reliability mark for Replacement Index. Currently only 25% of beef females calve at 2 years old so over the course of the next 6 months we will see more daughters of these bulls calving themselves. On average the 6 bulls detailed in Table 2 below have sired 33 daughters which have now calved themselves. They are proving to have produced profitable females retained by farmers for breeding and in many cases the calves on farm performance has led to the sires indexes increasing. These sires have, at this early stage, a lot of key data collected on their progeny such as calving records and weaning weights. These bulls are good examples of how a young bull can reach a high level of reliability quickly via a structured progeny testing programme.

Table 2. Details on some bulls tested through the Gene Ireland programme that are > 60% reliability on their Replacement Index.

Code Replacement Index Replacement Reliability Calving Difficulty % Calving Diff Reliability % Total Progeny Weaning Weights Mat Calving
KTM 173 66 4.2 85 232 49 46
LZZ 135 74 5.8 92 448 105 73
KAC 129 62 6.5 88 281 110 19
VEZ 125 61 3.8 86 209 81 23
JBS 119 62 1.7 82 153 37 10
AYH 114 63 5.9 80 131 49 26


One such bull that has come through the programme in recent years is Lisnacrann Demertios (Code: LZZ). Bred in Co Mayo by Michael Oliver, this bull was identified for purchase via the Gene Ireland breed committee in Autumn 2013 and his 500 straws were distributed on the Spring 2014 programme.  This bulls index has increased as the data detailed above on his progeny is coming back into the ICBF database and being compared to other bulls. LZZ now has 194 daughters on the ground with an average Replacement Index of €113. This means that over the course of 4 calvings these females will generate €452 more profit per head compared to females with a Replacement Index of €0. The national average Replacement Index for first calvers in 2017 was €82 which means that the LZZ daughters are, on average, €31 higher on Replacement Index than the average replacement heifer.

Further evidence of the momentum which is being built by the programme is the purchase by Gene Ireland of the bull Dunard Navigator (AA4603). This bull is sired by the hugely popular Carrigroe Kian (AA2064) who himself was purchased and distributed via Gene Ireland in 2015. The identification of sons of previous Gene Ireland bulls is a core element of the breeding programme and plays a critical role in driving genetic gain and ultimately more profit at farm level. Straws of Dunard Navigator are now available to herdowners by calling ICBF on 045 521573

All the indications are that bulls like LZZ and those listed above will produce females that will make profitable suckler cows for commercial farmers.

LZZ: Bred by Michael Oliver, Co Mayo

AA4603: Bred by Paul Matthews, Co Tipperary