ICSA meets ICBF over changes to beef breeding indexes

Meeting took place earlier this week.

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has said ICBF must do more to allay farmers’ fears around the introduction of significant changes to Ireland’s beef breeding indexes. “

Major changes to both Terminal and Replacement beef indexes are scheduled to be introduced on 21 November. However, as these changes have been decided upon without adequate consultation with farming organisations or the pedigree breed societies confusion has reigned supreme amongst beef and suckler farmers,” he said.

Mr Kelleher was speaking following a meeting between ICBF and a delegation from ICSA which took place on Monday (November 6), at the ICBF offices in Ballincollig, Co Cork.

“Our members have been demanding answers as to why ICBF are making these changes, why they are doing so now, and what it will mean for their farming enterprises. Of particular concern is the weighting of certain traits that has resulted in a list of the top one hundred bulls for Replacement index emerging that is heavy in traditional suckler breeds such as Angus and Hereford but low in Continental breeds such as Limousin and Charolais. However, over the course of our meeting, we received assurances from ICBF that within two years a more balanced picture will emerge.”

ICSA Suckler chair Jimmy Cosgrave added that notwithstanding this assurance from ICBF the ICSA delegation proposed publishing an inventory of the top bulls per breed, rather than just one list incorporating every breed. ICSA also proposed that no bull should appear on a Replacement index top one hundred list unless the bull has satisfactory terminal traits that will improve a suckler herd. “ICBF have taken our proposals on board, and we are prepared to engage further on these proposals so that a fairer message around these changes emerges; one that farmers can get behind.”

Further, Mr Cosgrave said ICBF will need to engage more with farmer representatives and the breed societies going forward. “The lack of consultation around this move by ICBF is at the root of the farmer frustration we are seeing. The changes to these indexes will have a big impact on beef and suckler farmers, particularly those in the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP). Many farmers had to think long and hard about joining SCEP in the first place and they need to have a clear understanding of the ramifications of these changes, and how to manage any changes to the ratings in their herds.”

“However, ICSA welcomes the move to publish Commercial Beef Values (CBV) on mart boards. This will likely demonstrate that well-bred animals for beef merit are worth far more than less well-bred animals when farmers are buying stores, weanlings, or calves. Our beef and suckler farmers will also be better armed to keep on track of their cost of production and to make decisions around which animals to buy for further feeding based on how these animals are likely to perform.”