The ICBF (Irish Cattle Breeding Federation) and Teagasc launched its Dairy Beef Index (DBI) – a breeding goal for Irish dairy and beef farmers to promote high-quality beef cattle bred from the dairy herd – last week.
It ranks beef bulls, for use in the dairy herd, according to their genetic merit for a range of calving performance and carcass performance traits, providing a simple method to select easy-calving short-gestation sires.
“Dairy farmers, predominantly, select beef bulls that have a short gestation length and are easy calving, without considering the beef carcass merit of the resulting calves. Therefore, the quality and viability of Irish beef production are at risk of deterioration.”
“Improving the quality of beef cattle from the dairy herd will generate economic benefits for all involved in the beef supply chain.” The ICBF said.
The overall DBI is expressed in euros (€); each €1 increase in DBI can be interpreted as a €1 expected increase in profit for that bull’s progeny compared to progeny born to the average Holstein-Friesian bull, the ICBF explained.
It has two main sub-indexes;
- The value of calving sub-index – which makes up 64% of the index;
- The value of the beef sub-index – which makes up the remaining 36% of the index.
The twelve traits include gestation length; calving difficulty; calving mortality; feed intake; docility; carcass weight; carcass conformation; carcass fat and two ‘out-of-spec’ traits.
The ICBF claims that progeny sired by high DBI bulls generate a higher calf price and they have better carcass performance than progeny sired by beef bulls that were simply used for their ease of calving and short gestation.
Compared to the progeny performance of beef bulls that sired most beef calves in dairy herds (between 2015 and 2018), beef bulls that were at the top of the DBI Spring 2019 Active bull list:
- Were easier calving on cows (1 percentage unit easier) • Generated a higher calf price (€18 more);
- Had a heavier carcass weight (20 kg heavier);
- Had a better conformation score (1 grade higher);
- Had more carcasses that met carcass specifications for weight (280 kg) and conformation grade (O=).
For Spring 2019, only beef AI bulls that have ≥30 progeny in dairy herds born to dairy dams have a Dairy Beef Index (DBI) which is published under ‘Genetic Evaluations’ – ‘Dairy/Beef Results’.
The ICBF said that over time, the DBI will be made available for all beef bulls (AI and stock bulls) and it will be incorporated into the Animal Search tool; profiles, and other reports.
For more information about this tool, see ICBF’s website here.