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National Genetic Evaluations for Meat Eating Quality Imminent

‘Irish Beef - A Changing Landscape’, is the theme for this year’s Teagasc National Beef Conference which is taking place this evening, Tuesday, 10 December, in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, County Mayo.

National Genetic Evaluations for Meat Eating Quality Imminent
Pictured at the Teagasc National Beef Conference 2019 "Irish Beef - A Changing Landscape" in the McWilliam Park Hotel Claremorris from left: Thomas Holmes, Beef farmer; Ronan Mulligan, Alan Dillon Teagasc speaker on Suckler Efficiencies in Practice; with John Conroy, Mairead Quinn, Liam Quinn and Alan Nolan of Teagasc. Photo © Michael Donnelly

National Genetic Evaluations for Meat Eating Quality Imminent

Meat eating quality characteristics such as tenderness, juiciness and flavour are becoming increasingly important in maintaining demand for beef products. Speaking in Claremorris, Teagasc research geneticist, Donagh Berry said that national genetic evaluations for meat eating quality could soon be available in Ireland; Ireland will therefore be one of the world leaders in this area and currently boast the largest database globally of meat sensory data on genotyped cattle assessed by trained panels.

He said: “Although large breed differences in meat eating quality are evident, up to 15 per cent of the within-breed differences in meat eating quality is due to genetic differences.  While single gene solutions are being marketed as being able to differentiate products on meat tenderness, they account for only a very small proportion of the underlying variation and are therefore not reliable.”

Addressing the conference, Alan Dillon, Teagasc beef specialist, said that improvements in technical efficiency have led to increases in profitability for the top third cohort of suckler calf to beef farmers completing Teagasc profit monitor analysis. “When adjusted for beef price increases, the top third of farmers have increased net margin from €293 per hectare to €380 per hectare for the period 2008 to 2018. Premia as a percentage of total farm profit has reduced from 63 per cent to 57 per cent in this time period,” he said. “Achieving high live weight gains from grazed pasture is a key target for beef farmers; weekly grass budgeting allied to investment in grassland infrastructure have led to improvements in gross margins for beef farmers”.

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) and the Beef Environmental and Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) were introduced with the objective of using genetics/genomics to address the decline in key maternal traits within the national suckler herd and in doing so improve the profitability and carbon efficiency of our livestock sector.

Speaking at the Teagasc National Beef Conference, Andrew Cromie, ICBF, said; “This has led to the current rate of genetic gain in our suckler beef herd increasing to €5 per cow per year, which is comparable with that being achieved in our national dairy herd.  An analysis of the first females that calved into BDGP herds showed that on average, 5 star females calved 59 days earlier than 1 star females and had a 13.6 days shorter average calving interval.”

Andrew Cromie said: “Of the first females that calved in BDGP herds and were weighed as part of the BEEP, 5 star cows were, on average, some 16 kg lighter than 1 star cows and yet had an 8 kg heavier weanling, representing a 2 per cent gain in weanling efficiency. In terms of progeny carcass performance, 5 star females were generating progeny which were slightly lighter in terms of carcass weights but were significantly younger in terms of age at slaughter representing a net gain in profitability of almost €60 per animal.”

Speaking at the conference, Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle said: “There was a modest recovery in cattle farmer incomes in 2019 after the extreme weather related additional costs of 2018. The Teagasc Rural Economy Department are predicting that average gross margins on the cattle rearing enterprises and cattle finishing enterprises increased by 8 per cent and 9 per cent respectively in 2019. In the absence of the BEAM and BEEP schemes, the gross margins on the cattle rearing enterprise and cattle finishing enterprise would have declined by 11 and 13 per cent respectively in 2019.

The conference will conclude with a panel discussion entitled ‘Beef – Facts and the Future’, with contributions from Dale Crammond, Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine; Kevin Hanrahan, Teagasc economist; Senator Ian Marshall and Bernadette Earley, Teagasc.

Among the topics to be discussed will be the impact of Brexit on beef for Ireland. The changes needed to meet Ireland’s climate change commitments, animal welfare and the contribution of the cattle sector to the rural economy. The full conference proceedings are available at https://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2019/national-beef-conference-2019-proceedings--presentations.php

New Teagasc Podcast – The Beef Edge

A new Teagasc podcast for cattle farmers is launched at the National Beef Conference. “The Beef Edge” is presented by Teagasc cattle specialist Catherine Egan and will broadcast fortnightly.  The podcasts will cover the latest news, information and advice for farmers to help them improve the performance on cattle farms.

To listen to the ‘The Beef Edge’ Podcast visit www.teagasc.ie/thebeefedge