The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) was formally set up in 1998, and is a non-profit organisation charged with providing cattle breeding information services to the Irish dairy and beef industries.

ICBF exists to benefit our farmers, our agri-food industry and our wider communities through genetic gain. We do this by the application of science and technology to ensure that our farmers and industry make the most profitable and sustainable decisions, through the use of the services provided from the ICBF cattle breeding database. Genetic improvement comes about when the parents of the next generation are genetically superior to their contemporaries. Bringing about improvement requires:

  • Identification, ancestry and quantitative data on those traits of importance for large numbers of animals in each generation.
  • A genetic evaluation system to identify the genetically superior animals in each generation.  An essential part of the genetic evaluation system is a scientific knowledge of the objectives and principles of cattle breeding.
  • A breeding scheme design that ensures the required data is available, and that farmers use genetically superior animals in each generation.
  • Well informed farmers and industry partners who willingly provide accurate data from their own farms and make full use of the information services provided by ICBF, and its service providing partners, in their breeding and farm management decisions.

Ultimately, all the activity outlined above revolves around the maintenance and growth of the national cattle breeding database, which holds information on practically all animals registered nationally, and any available performance data relating to those animals and the herds in which they reside.

Information flows to and from the Cattle Breeding Database

Hence, the team at ICBF has a heavy technical focus covering information technology skills, genetic evaluation skills and agricultural science skills. The flow of data to and from this national database can be represented by the diagram above. Ultimately, data is gathered from a variety of sources and information services are provided back to farmers and the industry which they use to ensure profitable and sustainable decisions are taken at farm level.

As part of the cross-industry agreement to set up ICBF, it was agreed that a Tag Contribution/Levy would be put in place.   The idea was that there would be ‘3 legs to the ICBF funding stool’ to ensure ICBF was a viable operation on an on-going basis (Tag Contribution, DAFM grants, and Service Income).

The purpose of the levy is to ensure that the requisite funding is in place to provide the infrastructure to allow genetic evaluations (e.g. EBI, Euro-Star ratings) to be available to farmers through the various ‘user-pay’ services at minimal cost.  It is also based on the fact that genetic improvement will positively impact all herds in the country, regardless of the level of engagement that they have with the fee paying services.

The Tag Contribution (€0.38) is paid on each National tag purchased (does not apply to replacement tags).  The amount paid by farmers to ICBF in 2016 amounted to €645,000.

The tag contribution is used to fund:

  • Gene Ireland Breeding Programme Activities (both Dairy and Beef)
  • Animal Events Data collection (e.g. Animal Events books, cost of keying data, etc.)
  • Genetic Evaluations infrastructure (computers, geneticists)