Celebrating Over 35 Years of Performance
The National Bull Performance Test Centre has been in operation for 35 years. The Test Centre has completed performance evaluations on over 5,000 bulls from 12 different beef breeds. The Centre showed a steady growth as interest in the Centre’s evaluation services grew.
Central performance testing is organised by ICBF, the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation. It is carried out at the Bull Testing Centre at Kildare. Before entering the Station each bull must go through a very thorough selection process. ICBF in conjunction with the Breed Societies will select a panel of bulls before entry based on €urostar information and age criteria. Owners of such potential test bulls are notified by ICBF from the ICBF Database about the next intake and are invited to apply.
ICBF and Breed Society scorers then inspect approved Bulls. Those that pass inspection are given a thorough health check. Health testing starts on farm and plays and important role asonly herds with a high health status are selected. A herd’s health status is established by health testing a number of animals in the herd (in addition to the candidate animal), there by building up a profile of the health status of the whole herd. On the basis of these health tests, the candidate bull(s) is then accepted into Tully where it will be isolated for a further 30 day period, during which time further health testing takes place and the animal is built up to ad-lib concentrates (an acclimatization period). At Tully, bulls are penned by breed and weight in groups of 5. Each pen is bedded with peat indoors and each group of bulls has access to an outdoor exercise pen, which is made up of bark mulch.
The testing involves exposing selected beef bulls from a number of breeds, generally ranging in age from 7 to 12 months, to uniform feeding, housing and management conditions. The aim being to establish the genetic potential of particular bulls (namely genetically superior bulls), in terms of feed conversion efficiency and growth efficiency. Central performance testing enables more accurate estimates of breeding values of potential breeding bulls to be obtained at an early stage in contrast to an on-farm or progeny test.
The testing involves exposing the bulls to uniform feeding and housing conditions, with the idea of further establishing the genetic potential of particular bulls (namely genetically superior bulls). Traits measured include growth potential measured through weight gain, visual muscle and skeletal measures (linear scoring), docility and functionality (also measured by linear scorers), ultrasound fat and muscle, and finally feed intake which allows a cost of production to be placed on the output traits. This information is combined at the end of test with previous performance tested animals but also with commercially recorded data including calving and gestation information, weaning weight and calf value from the livestock marts, linear type classification from pedigree beef herds, carcass weight, carcass fat and carcass conformation data from the factories, as well as pedigree ancestry information stored on the ICBF database. These results allow a genetic profile of all animals with records and related animals to be computed in the form of a €uro-star index. When bulls commence the performance test their new information can help to improve or dis-improve their indexes in an equal measure. However the average genetic merit of the group tested will generally remain similar before and after the performance test.
Tully Test Centre is proving itself to be an outstanding asset to the Irish Beef Industry. Nowhere else in Ireland can such a selection of quality beef bulls of such high health status and genetic merit be found, all at the same location.
Ultimately, the objective of Tully performance test station is to identify the best young bulls for potential progeny testing (through G€N€ IR€LAND) and from there into active AI. This role of Tully Test Centre in allowing the best Beef Bulls in Ireland with maternal traits to be identified and their genes to be disseminated into the national herd is in keeping with ICBF’s mission statement, that is to ‘Achieve the greatest possible genetic improvement in the National cattle herd for the benefit of Irish farmers, dairy and beef industries and members’.