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ABP R&D Farm research shows benefits of improved genetics

Initial results from the Gene Ireland Dairy Beef Programme, a major multi-year collaborative research study involving ABP Food Group, the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) and Teagasc indicates that improved genetics in the dairy herd can improve carcass weight and feed intake for the beef farmer without compromising calving difficulty or gestation length for the dairy farmer. The first animals have been slaughtered with initial analysis suggesting a difference of between €150 and €200 per slaughtered animal between individual AI sires.

The research is being conducted at a 280 acre ABP Research and Demonstration Farm in County Wexford which is set up to resemble a typical beef farm and is worked by an experienced beef farming family living on the farm.

The main aims of the study are to:

  • Improve the efficiency and profitability of dairy herd sourced beef production.
  • Develop a Dairy Beef selection index to maximise dairy and beef on farm performance.
  • Identify the most suitable beef bull genetics for crossing on dairy herds.
  • Genetically improve main breeds supplying beef bulls to dairy herds.

Dr Andrew Cromie, Technical Director, ICBF, commented: “The programme is now delivering real benefits for the beef and dairy industries, by helping ICBF accurately identify the beef sires that have proven traits for use on the dairy herd in the future. All of the data collected on the participating AI sires, including their progeny, is publically available on the ICBF website, thereby ensuring that farmers and the wider industry can have absolute confidence regarding the accuracy and independence of the genetic evaluations being generated as part of the study.”

Chief Operations Officer at ABP Finbarr McDonnell, said the findings are as a result of a culmination of three years collaborative work between ABP, ICBF and Teagasc. “These are the first set of results from this multi-year initiative and they already represent significant success. Having a research and demonstration farm has allowed us to consistently monitor and record valuable data on all aspects of animal development right through from calf to slaughter. The farm is a typical Irish beef farm, which ensures today’s findings are relevant in a broader context. These findings are now available to farmers through ICBF and Teagasc so that they can make an informed decision when it comes to choosing sires for the dairy herd.”

Padraig French, Head of Livestock Research at Teagasc Moorpark, said: “The ongoing expansion of the national dairy herd is significantly increasing the supply of beef x dairy calves and these are becoming the dominant supply of prime beef from Irish grass based beef production. The decisions made by dairy farmers when selecting beef bulls to use on their dairy herd has a profound effect on the overall efficiency of the calf to beef enterprise. We need to ensure that dairy farmers have available to them sires that can meet their requirements for short gestation and easy calving but also have good terminal traits for the beef farmers that rear those calves.”