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Experiences from Ireland

Andrew Cromie shares Ireland’s experience in improving carcass and meat eating quality.

by Troy Smith, field editor

LOVELAND, Colo., June 21, 2018 — Like cattlemen in the U.S., Ireland’s cattle producers are interested in efficiency of production.

“They want a cow that will produce more from less,” said Andrew Cromie of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) during the 2018 Beef Improvement Federation Convention hosted June 20 -23 in Loveland, Colo. Cromie spoke during the End-product Improvement breakout session.

Andrew Cromie of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation.

In Cromie’s opinion, the Irish cattle industry focused too narrowly, for too long, on terminal traits. On most farms, genetic selection emphasized pounds of beef production and beef quality. Results proved positive for the traits prioritized, but were accompanied by negative trends for maternal traits. Cromie said an ICBF-led effort promoting more balanced selection began in 2014.

ICBF, explained Cromie, is a cooperative comprised of 30 local producer organizations. Ireland has approximately 100,000 cattle operations (dairy and beef), about half of which are beef farms with an average breeding herd size of 20 head. Ireland’s total beef production is greater than 500,000 metric tons annually, with more than 80% exported.

ICBF was established to help beef producers apply science and technology toward improved profitability, facilitating phenotypic data collection and incorporation of genomics in Ireland’s national cattle evaluations, Cromie explained. To date, about 1.2 million beef animals have been genotyped. As an incentive for increased participation among producers, the European Union and Ireland’s government have helped fund participation costs for producers meeting certain minimum requirements, including the genotyping of at least 12 animals per year.

Cromie said ICBF pushed for development of an economic or “profitability” selection index designed to afford balanced selection pressure for important terminal and maternal traits. However, the index is weighted more heavily for traits contributing to cow efficiency. Applying the index, cattle are ranked according to a “star” system, with one star being the lowest and five stars being the highest ranking. The system is used for making comparisons within breeds and across breeds.

“The goal is to get more four- and five-star cows,” said Cromie. “These are the cows that are more profitable, more sustainable and more carbon efficient.”

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