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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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New Angus initiative to reduce age of slaughter

Certified Irish Angus has launched what it brands an ‘Elite Breed Improvement Programme’ to incentivise farmers to reduce GHG emissions by up to 9% per kilo of beef.

It believes that this “pioneering” new programme is the first of its kind for beef farmers in Ireland.

It says the initiative will enhance the genetics of Angus cross cattle to reduce carbon emissions and provide a “cross-sectoral solution” that will benefit pedigree breeders, dairy farmers and beef producers.

Catherine Smyth – who has significant experience in livestock genetics and holds a degree in sustainable agriculture –  is spearheading the programme.

The initiative began in December 2021 with the purchase of Drumcrow Tribesman, an Angus bull with “superior” genetics, as part of a joint venture with Dovea Genetics.

Angus programme

The programme offers a range of financial incentives and supports for farmers as follows:

Dairy & suckler farmer benefits:

  • Access to Tribesman’s sons with a refund on the purchase price;
  • €200 cashback premium on each Tribesman son within the programme;
  • An opportunity to sell offspring direct to Certified Irish Angus members via an exclusive online portal

Beef farmers:

  • Access to genetically superior calves; with genetic information that allows for predictable performance and margin while reducing GHG emissions.

Pedigree breeders:

  • Subsidised male-sexed semen;
  • €80 refund per male calf born and genotyped.
Pilot

Certified Irish Angus currently has nine pilot dairy farms with cows in calf to Drumcrow Tribesman.

Offspring from this bull will also be used in the Certified Irish Angus school competition, which forms an education aide to students studying agricultural science for Leaving Cert.

It provides students with an insight into efficient animal breeding, feeding, processing, and marketing.

Reducing age of slaughter

Using Drumcrow Tribesman genetics can reduce the age of slaughter by one month, the group says.

This would give the potential of a reduction of 9% in CO2 equal per carcass kg when compared to a Holstein Friesian animal based on Teagasc research.

ICBF carried out modelling on a group of Friesian cows that had been put in-calf to Drumcrow Tribesman (AA8172).

The values below are expressed in euros and show the expected CBV of the progeny of this crossing.

The group then asked ICBF to carry out a similar modelling on the same cows and a different bull (AA4195), who was one of the bulls used on the Teagasc Grange High Genetic merit bull panel.

As readers can see below, the values from Drumcrow Tribesman (AA8172) are higher than AA4195.

Animal Number Expected CBV of AA8172 progeny Expected CBV of AA4195 progeny
372214068892457 104 100
IE121203811448 102 98
372214547051952 104 102
372219933781887 78 74
372214547071905 102 100
372214547061945 114 112
372214547071921 108 104
372214547071954 92 90
372214547021891 118 116
IE121178621065 114 116

 

GHG emissions 

Smyth says the programme has been almost 12 months “in the making” and involved extensive research and analysis to identify how to help beef farmers “move the dial” regarding GHG emissions.

By improving the quality of Angus-cross cattle through better genetics, she says the group can increase carcass weight and decrease the age of slaughter, which results in a “significant” reduction in overall emissions per animal.

The programme also aims to improve the level of beef sire recording on dairy farms, which, in turn, she adds, provides “essential” genetic information to beef farmers on the likely performance and future value of these calves.

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