A revised national breeding index that has the potential to boost income in the beef sector by €1bn was launched last week at the ICBF/Teagasc Suckler Cow Breeding conference in Tullamore.
Professor Gerry Boyle claimed the launch of the maternal index heralded the commencement of a "new era" for beef breeders.
Prof Boyle said the Euro Star Breeding Index would deliver improved performance for suckler farmers and increased farm income.
"I am really confident that the introduction of this maternal index can, in a very short space of time, address what is a significant gap in performance on Irish suckler farms," he told nearly 400 farmers at the Tullamore Court Hotel.
"I am looking forward immensely to what I see as the commencement of a new era of hope and I hope that is not being over-optimistic in terms of what is possible in improvement of performance in breeding and production in suckler herds," Prof Boyle added.
A two-year review by ICBF and Teagasc has been central to the development of three new indexes.
The maternal, terminal and dairy beef indexes are given Euro Star ratings of one to five. These are applied to all male and female animals used for breeding and provide a guide to beef producers.
Ms Noirin McHugh, Teagasc, Moorepark said that the payback potential for breeders using five-star animals compared to one star was €130 per cow per annum.
Given current suckler herd size, this would deliver a boost of €1bn to the sector as a whole by 2020.
While previous breeding indexes have facilitated large improvements in carcass traits, they have contributed to a decline in milk and fertility within the national herd.
Mark McGee of Teagasc said trials at Grange had shown the Limousin cross Holstein Friesian remained the benchmark cow type for suckler farmers.
He said this was because of the moderate feed intake of the cows, good reproductive performance and excellent progeny performance on immunity, weight gain and beef grading.
- Martin Ryan
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