ICBF launches new dairy beef index (DBI)
The ICBF launched a new dairy beef index today which ranks bulls on their suitability for use on the dairy herd. Adam Woods reports

The decline in carcase weights and conformation in the last number of years is an issue for beef finishers who are finding it harder and harder to finish dairy-cross animals to leave a profitable margin.

Dairy farmers have been focused on calving ease and short gestation as the most important traits when selecting beef sires in the dairy herd.

Unfortunately, many of these bulls are negative for carcase weight and carcase conformation.

There has been a gradual decline in carcase weight, carcase conformation and carcase fat cover over the past three years.

Dairy beef calf registrations have increased by 275,000 since 2010. The ICBF has been working on a dairy beef index (DBI) for the last few years and today it goes live.

What is the dairy beef index?

The dairy beef index is a breeding tool developed for Irish dairy and beef farmers to promote high-quality beef cattle bred from the dairy herd.

The aim is that dairy farmers will use the index when selecting beef bulls to use on their dairy herd.

What are the benefits?

1. It will identify easy-calving and short-gestation beef bulls with high carcase merit.

2. Progeny will be more saleable as calves and more profitable at slaughter.

3. There will be minimal consequences on dairy cow fertility performance, milk production, or health.

What does the dairy beef index select for?

High € values for calving sub-index (64% of DBI):

  • Shorter gestation lengths.
  • Easy calving.
  • Less calf mortality.
  • High € values for beef sub-index (36% of DBI):

  • Less feed consumption.
  • High carcase weight and conformation.
  • Low carcase fat.
  • Meet factory spec for weight and conformation.
  • Expected increase

    Each €1 increase in DBI can be interpreted as a €1 expected increase in profit for that bull’s progeny, compared with progeny born to the average Holstein-Friesian bull.

    Dairy farmers who are not keeping progeny may say 'it’s not my problem', but that would be a short-term view to take.

    If dairy beef is unprofitable, beef farmers don’t buy calves and dairy farms are left with the problem.

    Calf welfare issues and questions over the sustainability of the current dairy breeding programme suddenly come into play, so both the dairy and beef industry need to take note.

    Table 1 outlines the top five bulls on the dairy beef index currently on the active bull list. The active dairy beef index bull list can be accessed at www.icbf.com.

    Survey: what do you expect from green fertilisers?
    Cork academics researching the potential of recycling waste into fertilisers want to hear from farmers on their requirements for these products.

    Cork Institute of Technology is running an online survey to collect farmers' views on recycling-derived fertiliser, which includes processed animal manure, urban waste including household food waste, catering waste or green cuttings from recreational areas as well as human waste in the form of sewage sludge.


    "Currently, crop production in the EU is heavily dependent on the import of P-containing [phosphoros] mineral fertilisers, while the production of mineral N [nitrogen] fertiliser requires large amounts of energy," the academics said.

    "Paradoxically, however, there are several regions with a nutrient surplus in northwestern Europe," the academics said.

    Technologies to recover nutrients from waste are available on the market

    Their research is part of an EU-funded project looking into the potential of recycled fertilisers across Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany.

    Technologies to recover nutrients from waste are available on the market, but researchers said that until now they have remained little-used by farmers.


    "It is essential that the end product fulfils farmers’ requirements," said Cork IT lecturer Niamh Power.

    "The objective of the survey is to determine the desired properties recycling-derived fertilisers are required to have, to encourage their use over mineral fertilisers.

    "This is a great opportunity for the farming community to have their voice heard about what they consider important."

    Click here to take the survey, which comprises of 29 questions and takes around 15 minutes to complete.

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    Here is your news round-up of the five top farming stories and weather outlook for 16 February 2019.

    Weather forecast

    Met Éireann has said that there will be some mist or drizzle at times on Saturday morning, but most places will be dry during the day.

    More general rain is forecast to develop along the west coast by evening.

    It will be mild and breezy, with highs of 10°C to 12°C in southerly winds.

    In the news

  • In pictures: silage 2019 kicks off in February in Kilkenny.
  • The board of Aurivo met on Friday and increased its January milk price.
  • Farmers are being driven out of business by over-zealous and unaccountable inspectors, Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said.
  • Applications for the BEEP scheme, which has a funding provision of €20m, will be accepted up to and including next Friday 22 February.
  • Some 66 projects from across the country will be allocated funding of €62m under the €1bn rural regeneration and development fund.
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  • Good week/bad week.
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