Hereford Beef Genetics Sustainability Program

The Irish Hereford Prime beef producer group have made a substantial investment in a new beef genetics sustainability program. The first steps on the road to an enhanced sustainability policy for the Irish Hereford Prime beef brand has seen the group partner with Dovea Genetics and the Irish Hereford Breed Society, to identify and promote bulls capable of further improving the quality and substantiality credentials of its premium beef brand. The initiative in the first year sees the roll out of three new Hereford AI sires suitable for Irish dairy and suckler farmers this Spring. The AI Strawsfrom these three new bulls are being put through their paces on the ICBF Gene Ireland Dairy Beef Programme in 2022 and are also currently available through Dovea Genetics.

The breeding policy of the program makes easy calving, short gestation Hereford bulls available to meet the huge demand at farm level, while also ensuring high terminal carcass performance to deliver a Hereford beef animal that continues to achieve targeted improvements. The producer group recognises that an increase in the rate of genetic gain is linked to profitability, sustainability and climate efficiency. A reduction in the age at slaughter while maintaining animal daily live weight gain will ensure lower overall methane emissions per kilogram of beef produced, thereby strengthening the sustainability pillar that the Irish Hereford Prime brand is built upon.

A number of young bulls of potential interest to the program were shortlisted using ICBF Eurostar data. The final decision on a bull’s suitability for this programme was made following visual inspection and updated breeding values incorporating genomics. The three bulls selected are now being made available to farmers this Spring to use on their herds to produce the next generation o Hereford cross cattle suitable for the premium markets supplied by Irish Hereford Prime.

Each of the new bulls pack an impressive set of credentials. Timolinpoll 1 Hercules (HE7374) bred by Susan Lawlor, Co. Kildare has a dairy beef index of €78 which is in the top 1% of the breed, a terminal index of €75 which is in the top 5% of the breed and a replacement index of €134 which is also in the top 5% of the breed. Hercules is in the top 1% for dairy cow calving ease at 2.5% and also rated in the top 5% for beef cow calving ease at 1.3% . He is 5 stars across breeds for gestation length and this combined with a 5 star +9.6kg carcass weight value means that this bull has it all in terms of genomic breeding values.

The next bull to mention is Skehanore Fruitful (HE7545), who was bred by Tom & Paddy Hickey from Co. Cork and is sired by the 2021 National Hereford Champion Freetown Peerless. He has a 5 star terminal value of €83 and a 5 star dairy beef value of €81. Fruitful is the 2nd bull in the program to be in the top 5% of the breed for terminal value and the top 1% for DBI. He has a 5 star +12.5kg carcass weight value and is in the top 5% of the breed for dairy cow calving ease. This bull seems to tick all the boxes for both the dairy farmer and the beef producer.

The most recent bull available in this first phase of the beef genetics sustainability program is Corlismore Cormac (HE7548) and he is bred by Sean and Gary McKiernan from Co. Cavan. Cormac is sired by the 2018 National Hereford Champion Shiloh Farm Dynamite and has a 4 star terminal value of €55 and a 5 star DBI of €58. It is also important to highlight that he is in the top 5% for dairy cow calving ease.

Irish Hereford Prime is acutely aware of the changes to national policy through Ag Climatise, the Dept of Agricultures roadmap to carbon neutrality. The requirements of today’s consumer means that the beef producer group must continue to produce a quality beef product in an environmentally friendly way. A targeted approach on genetic gain along with the use of up-to-date technologies will lead to an improvement in on farm animal performance, which in turn will contribute to a reduction in overall emissions.

As the largest Hereford producer group in Europe, Irish Hereford Prime aims to position itself to better supply exactly what the market needs. The consumer now demands more sustainable environmentally friendly beef, which ultimately drives what the Irish beef producer supplies at farm level. The group are looking forward to seeing the rewards from their long-term investment in identifying suitable Hereford genetics being seen by the consumer right the way back to their farmer members who produce their beef.