Moneen Rio, a Jersey crossbred bull (62% Jersey) tops the ICBF active bull list for 2021 with an EBI of €346. He’s bred by Shane Chambers from Bandon in Co Cork, who is a long-standing member of the Forge discussion group.

Ten years ago, that group of Munster-based dairy farmers decided to start breeding their own AI bulls. Together with the Blackwater discussion group, it has now reached the top and has two of the top three bulls on the 2021 active bull list and three bulls in the top 10. These bulls are sold through Bova AI.

Tipperary-based AI station Dovea Genetics has the number two bull on the list, Saintbrigid Frank Joseph.

Dovea has two bulls in the top 10, while NCBC – representing Munster Bovine and Progressive Genetics – has five bulls in the top 10.

It’s a significant achievement for Forge Genetics, long seen as the upstarts in the highly competitive and lucrative world of Irish dairy breeding. The increase in size of the dairy herd and the increased use of AI has dramatically increased the turnover of AI companies, the majority of which are owned by Irish dairy co-ops.

Once again, the 2021 active bull list is dominated by young Holstein Friesian bulls but it is interesting to note that Rio is a Jersey crossbred bull – the first time a crossbred bull got to the top of the list. To get on the list, bulls must have:

  • EBI reliability greater than or equal to 35%.
  • Calving difficulty reliability greater than or equal to 70% (based on 23% heifer reliability and 77% cow reliability).
  • At least 50 calving records either in Ireland or in the country of origin of the bull.
  • This year, there are 67 Irish bred bulls on the list. This means that nearly 90% of the bulls on the list were bred in Ireland.

    This is in contrast to the situation in 2008 when just 10 bulls on the list were bred in Ireland.

    The majority of these bulls have gone through the Gene Ireland programme.

    This year, there are 100 young bulls in the Gene Ireland programme.

    Farmers can purchase these bulls in packs ranging in size from five bulls with seven straws of each (35 straws) up to a maximum of 10 straws per bull with no more than 35% of the farmers’ overall straw requirement coming from Gene Ireland.

    Guide to reading the table

    Access the table here.

    The most important information is the EBI detail for each bull. This gives its overall EBI and reliability and also the EBI of the sub-indices.

    Farmers need to pick a team of bulls (at least seven bulls) and they need to match these bulls to best complement the traits of the cow. The best way to do this is to use Sire Advice on the HerdPlus website.

    The programme uses an algorithm to best assign bulls to cows.

    Farmers can manually insert the bulls he or she wants to use, or use sire advice to pick the most suitable bulls.

    Remember, the objective of picking bulls is to achieve genetic gain in your herd, so choose a high EBI and balanced team of bulls and then match them to the cows.