Co-ordination is vital for Irish industry
MAKING breeding decisions from information provided by breeders and AI suppliers under free market competition is not working for Irish beef producers. Greater co-operation and pooling of breeding data is needed to improve breeding decisions and output.
Brian Wickham, Irish Cattle Breeding Federation chief executive, told delegates that a national breeding programme could help win more valuable markets for Irish beef. Currently, nine out of every 10 finished animals is exported, but securing higher value markets requires co-operation between breeding, testing and availability and use of data. Irish producers have no equivalent to the Meat and Livestock Commission developed Beefbreeder programme.
Several sectors of the livestock industry hold information that could formulate a national breeding programme but it needs to be centralised to benefit producers. Breeders, finishers and slaughterers could offer valuable data, said Dr Wickham, although recording data needs to be standardised to remove errors and variations.
"We also should make more use of the national cattle identification scheme which allows traceability back to farm to identify where better performing cattle are bred and reared," he added.
Information must be collated and easily accessed by producers. He suggested breeders supplying data to the system could, in future, realise higher market prices for breeding bulls supported with relevant data.
"But a national breeding programme would require commitment from producers," added Dr Wickham, whose department might require funding from producers to create a national breeding programme, given that government support may end.