On-farm recorded data is a vital element of the Irish genetic evaluation process and the creation of the Euro-Star and EBI indexes. Every herd owner in Ireland can act as a data collector to help contribute vital information to databases. Recording data may initially seem like extra hassle amongst an already busy schedule of work, but it will undoubtedly prove to be a worthwhile investment in the long term. Comprehensive levels of accurately recorded data being fed into the ICBF database will result in more reliable genetic indexes being achieved in a shorter period of time. Farmers will then be better equipped to make more informed and profitable decisions when choosing stock to breed from as a result of high reliability indexes.
Farmers are obliged to submit certain details when registering calves. Data such as date of birth, sex and dam tag number are compulsory for calf registration. This data is transferred to ICBF via the Department of Agriculture’s AIM system. When farmers sell animals in the mart, ICBF receives weights and prices with similar data being transferred to their database when an animal is slaughtered such as carcass information. So farmers are already contributing vast amounts of information to the ICBF database but a little more will make a huge difference. In order to improve the reliability of genetic indexes and subsequently take Irish cattle breeding to the next level, extra data is required to be recorded by farmers. The long term benefits will far outweigh the initial time invested in such an exercise.
Being able to identify the sire of an animal is vitally important from a genetic evaluation point of view. Sire recording helps herd owners to avoid inbreeding and make genetic gain in their herd which equates to more profit. Without a recorded sire, ICBF is unable to fully use an animal’s performance in genetic evaluations. The sire of a calf (stock/AI bull) can be recorded quickly and easily when registering a calf on the Agfood web site, farm software, or through the Animal Events book. A sire is the most important piece of data that can be recorded on any animal.
It is very important to record the calving difficulty, as it allows databases to build a profile of the calving difficulty of bulls. The more calving surveys received on a bull the more reliable his calving difficulty figure will become. By having an accurate calving index available, farmers can make better decisions when choosing bulls to use in their herds. Calf vigour gives an indication to the animal’s ability to get up and suck at birth. There is some evidence that there is a genetic component to calf vigour and this information will be used to develop an index for this trait.
In order to realise the full genetic potential of the Irish Beef and Dairy herd, increased data recording is essential. Farmers are encouraged to get in to a habit of recording data at regular intervals, no matter how small your herd is every piece of data is significant. A farmer with 10 suckler cows can contribute as much as 200 individual data records to the database. Finally it is of paramount importance that you only record accurate data. If you are unsure of the sire of a calf, do not record the sire. This will lead to inaccurate data which is worse than no data at all as it is misleading.
If you have a stock bull, you may allocate a short code to the bull and use this when registering the sire of the calf. It is recommended that you use the breed of the bull and the last four digits of the animals IE or 372 tag prefix (eg. HE1234). This short code only needs to be allocated once in a bull’s lifetime, most online options have a mechanism for retaining the tag number of the sire for multiple calf registrations. There is also a more detailed example of how to create a short code for a stock bull on the inside cover of the latest version of the Animal Events book.
A short code must be allocated properly before it can be used for a calf registration. For example if a farmer just put down HE1234 in the sire section for a calf in the Animal Events book without ever having properly allocated HE1234 as the short code for the bull then the sire won’t be added and there will be an Error. Also Farmers need to consistently use the short code they assign or the full tag number. If they assign HE1234 but then start recording variations of that (HE234, 1234, 234 or HE34 etc.) then there will be errors.