Back in November, ICBF’s Andrew Cromie said at the launch of the revised dairy EBI and the introduction of the Commercial Beef Value (CBV) that the organisation is presuming live export of calves is not going to last.
This claim was then repeated earlier this month at the Teagasc National Dairy Conference by Teagasc geneticist and researcher Alan Twomey.
In both instances there wasn’t as much as a sigh from the audience, despite the fact that the claim, or assumption has massive implications and, as far as I can see is not rooted in fact.
As a full and active member of the European Union, Ireland has every right to move calves to other European member states and that is a right that it cannot be denied.
Yes, the EU Commission is proposing new measures to improve animal welfare in transit and they are currently working on this but stopping movement is not on the table.
There are also potential issues around shipping, in particular roll on and roll off transport of calves plus there are potential problems looming with moving stock into the Netherlands with unknown IBR status.
However, in my view it is far too premature to make assumptions on the demise of live transport of calves out of Ireland and Irish farmers would be better served by the aforementioned organisations if they stopped making these assumptions in public.
Anyway, back to breeding. Changes have been made to the Dairy Beef Index (DBI) with carbon now incorporated as a trait, reducing the relative weighting of calving sub-index.
The beef sub-index continues to make up over 50% of the DBI with carcase weight making up 25% of the index and feed intake and percentage of progeny in-spec making up another 10% each.
The DBI should be used by dairy farmers when picking what beef bulls to use on dairy cows. Speaking at the Teagasc dairy conference in Cork, Tipperary farmer Liam Long said that he uses multiple different sires across his herd based on cow age and size in order to maximise calf value.
On the other hand the CBV uses the same data as the DBI but has stripped away all of the calving sub-index because these beef animals are just being grown for beef not breeding.
The CBV is made up of 50% from the dam (EBI for beef) and 50% from the sire.
According to Alan Twomey, on average high CBV animals will be heavier, more conformed and be younger at slaughter.
This age at slaughter trait is now being used across the beef and dairy indexes and serves two purposes. The first is that animals that are finished earlier cost less to rear and secondly, animals that are finished earlier have a much lower carbon footprint.
There will be more dairy beef bred calves in the future, whether or not live transport is permitted or not and dairy farmers have an onus to produce higher spec calves for beef farmers and using the DBI to pick bulls is an important step in this process.
All farmers will see the CBV scores for their calves next spring but only calves that have been genotyped will have their CBV displayed on the mart boards.
This decision was made because the authorities don’t trust dairy farmers to record the correct sire when registering calves.