As the old saying goes, an ounce of breeding is worth a pound of feeding. Given where meal prices are and where they might be heading, the value of breeding has never been greater. Over the last few weeks, the Irish Farmers Journal has featured articles on both dairy and beef genetics. This week, we take a look at breeding itself.

George Ramsbottom and his colleagues at Teagasc and ICBF take a look at the implications of using a stock bull, rather than AI, for breeding dairy replacements. On the face of it, the stock bull may appear to be cheaper, but in the long-term it carries a massive cost, both in terms of slower genetic gain and the cost of carrying bulls, plus the infertility, disease and by no means least, the health and safety risks.

On the beef side, Darren Carty reports on the breeding plan from the Newford Farm beef demonstration farm at Athenry in Co Galway. The farm has focused on breeding cows with high maternal traits and using a high proportion of AI, so it will be interesting to find out how the management at Newford are preparing for the upcoming breeding season. See more on pages 48 and 49.

It’s important that farmers get a bit of a break in before the breeding season commences

Synchronisation programmes continue to increase in popularity among Irish dairy farmers. Their usefulness as a means of reducing labour and making the breeding and calving seasons more compact cannot be underestimated.

However, as is mentioned in the article on pages 50 and 51, their widespread use in healthy cows needs to be questioned, particularly if using progesterone-based devices. For me, they are useful for getting problem cows cycling quicker and for use in heifers, but I’m not sure it’s the right road to go down for healthy dairy cows.

Finally, it’s important that farmers get a bit of a break in before the breeding season commences, as this is one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year.