The recently released 2022 Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) HerdPlus calving reports show improvements in some of the key performance indicators for the suckler herd in Ireland.

The headline figure is the calving interval, which sits at 393 days, an improvement of two days on 2021.

Encouragingly, this is the third year of improvements since a high of 401 days in 2019.

Calves per cow per year

Another key indicator of herd performance is calves per cow per year, which has also seen an improvement at a national level in recent years, up to 0.86 cows per calf per year up from a low of 0.84 in 2019.

Looking at some other calving stats that may be driving this figure is an increase in the number of cows culled up to 19%, a figure that is as high as it has been for the last 10 years, as well as the percentage of recycled cows – the number of cows that move from one calving period to the next without being in calf - being down to 16%, meaning farmers are not holding on to cows that are not productive.

Age at first calving

One parameter that does not seem to be making progress is the percentage of heifers calving between 22 and 26 months of age.

The figure for 2022 sits at just 24%, up 1% from last year. The measure has hovered between 20% and 25% over the last number of years.

From an environmental standpoint, it is an area where progress needs to be made on beef farms, as getting heifers to calve earlier in life reduces the period of time in which they are not productive, so their overall emissions per kilo of output reduces.

This year has also seen a drop in the number of calves born to known sires at 78%, down from as high as 89% in 2019. The reason for this could be attributed to the end of the BDGP scheme in which recording sires was required.

As with any set of data, the average figure can hide a multitude, but it is a good overall benchmark for farms to compare themselves to.

The ICBF sent out the latest beef calving reports to farmers in recent weeks. It is well worth spending a few minutes going through each of the key performance indicators for your herd and seeing how your stats compare with the national average, as well as the top and bottom 10% of herds.