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HomeBeefBreed-by-breed analysis: Age of first-calving - pedigree beef heifers
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Breed-by-breed analysis: Age of first-calving – pedigree beef heifers

The ICBF (Irish Cattle Breeding Federation) has reviewed the performance of pedigree first-calvers across the main beef breeds in Ireland.

It pointed out that there is “nearly more” variation within a breed than between them.

Age of first-calving (months) – beef pedigree [Data source: ICBF]

Breed Number of first-calvers Bottom 20% Average Top 20% 
Angus 2,374 35 28 24
Aubrac 428 37 32 27
Blonde 142 37 32 28
Charolais 2,522 38 34 28
Hereford 1,457 36 31 27
Limousin 3,521 37 33 29
Parthenaise 168 39 34 28
Salers 597 36 32 25
Simmental 1,428 36 31 26

Calving interval (days) – beef pedigree cows [Data source: ICBF] 

Breed Number of cows Bottom 20% Average Top 20%
Angus 9,283 425 372 343
Aubrac 1,480 434 378 346
Blonde 697 452 387 355
Charolais 10,205 462 386 353
Hereford 4,452 434 376 347
Limousin 14,175 457 386 354
Parthenaise 431 470 392 355
Salers 2,510 419 374 346
Simmental 5,081 445 381 351

Constant improvements 

In a statement, the ICBF said: “Our pedigree breeds have always been to the fore in making constant improvements, year-on-year in the terminal traits such as weight gain and carcass merit.”

“A trait such as age of first-calving, however, poses a different challenge as it cannot be deduced from the looks of a bull how fertile his daughters will be and what their ability to calve down at 24 months will be like either.”


The federation stated that this trait can only be properly analysed through recording mating, calving and ancestry data. This, it added, will also allow for the identification of trait leaders in terms of breeding females and sires.

The ICBF added that the same applies for calving interval, “another ‘invisible’ trait”. “The human eye cannot judge a bull for how quickly his daughters will be able to go back in-calf.”

The replacement’ index rewards animals, which perform well for fertility traits, as well as having good beefing potential.

Work with cows that have natural fertility

“Bull lists are now unrecognisable to how they were even 10 years ago. We are now able to identify bulls whose daughters have been found to excel at these hard to see fertility traits.”

“It’s really important that farmers are working with a herd of suckler cows that have natural fertility and all that goes with it in their DNA.” 

Several studies have shown that heifers that calve at 24 months of age, live longer and are more profitable over their lifetime.

“The genetic trends for these fertility traits are going in the right direction, however, it is important not to be complacent and think that the job is done.”

“Thankfully, today in Ireland, we have the tools in terms of the genetics and the indexes to make continual improvements in this area.” the ICBF concluded.

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