Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue T.D., today announced funding for a major and world-first genotyping programme for Irish cattle. This programme, which is being run through a strategic public-private partnership model, will enhance the environmental sustainability, health and productivity of Irish beef and dairy herds.
Speaking at the launch this morning the Minister stated:
“We are stepping out a hugely ambitious and world-first programme that will ensure that Irish farming remains the most pioneering agriculture sector in the world. This is the first step in delivering on our ambition of genotyping all cattle in the country. This programme is the outcome of truly constructive engagement between my Department and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation, farm organisations and industry representatives in bringing this project to fruition.
“By harnessing genetic data, the programme will empower Irish farmers to make informed breeding decisions, optimise herd management and animal welfare, and contribute towards Ireland’s climate action targets.
“I am confident that genotyping on a national scale will contribute to Ireland’s ambition to becoming a world leader in sustainable food systems, in line with our shared Food Vision 2030 strategy.”
The voluntary genotyping programme, which will be available to both beef and dairy herd owners, will run over a five-year period and represents a significant step towards realising the Minister’s ambition for Ireland to be the first country in the world to genotype the national bovine herd.
The programme will be based on a cost sharing model between the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the beef and dairy industry, and participating farmers. The first year of the programme in 2023, with a budget of €23 million, will be funded from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, and the five-year programme will be notified to the European Commission under agriculture state aid rules. Genotyping from 2024 onwards will be met on a one-third cost sharing basis by the Department, industry and farmers.
ICBF will administer the programme on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The programme is not open for applications yet. Full details on the application process will be available from ICBF in the coming weeks.
The Minister added:
“We are well placed to develop work in this area. Ireland has made a good start on genotyping, particularly through my Department’s innovative schemes to enhance the environmental and economic performance for the beef sector, such as the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) and its successor Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP).
This new funding commitment from Government, in partnership with all stakeholders, will facilitate genotyping a critical mass of our dairy and beef herds.”
Chair of Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) Michael Doran commented:
“It is great to see Government, industry and farmers coming together on this initiative. It will help provide a range of decision-making tools that will enable us on our journey towards meeting our environmental, social, and economic sustainability targets.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
FOOD VISION GROUP RECOMMENDATIONS
In late 2022, the Food Vision Dairy and Beef Groups reported to Minister McConalogue on how emissions from both sectors could be reduced, either through direct or enabling measures. Driving down emissions through targeted breeding strategies featured as a direct impact measure in both reports. The key building block for the breeding strategies referenced in the Reports is a national genotyping strategy.
The accurate information available from genotyping will also contribute to enhanced integration between the dairy and beef sectors, and to improving animal health and welfare.
Research undertaken by Teagasc, and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) has highlighted the significant benefits that can accrue to Irish farmers and related industries with higher genetic merit herds being more profitable and with a lower carbon footprint. In addition to improving economic and environmental sustainability, genotyping the national herd will have a number of co-benefits, including:
- providing a unique selling point in terms of traceability, which is important for marketing our quality produce, particularly for international trade.
- providing greater certainty about the quality of dairy beef calves, with benefits both for the farmers rearing those calves and for calf health and welfare.
ICBF will manage this five year programme on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). The total funding allocation for year 1 (2023) is €23 million; this is fully exchequer funded through the Brexit Adjustment Reserve. Funding over years two to five will be based on a cost sharing model between DAFM, Industry and participating farmers, in line with state aid requirements. Participating farmers must commit to the full five years of the programme and will contribute to the programme in years two to five with the costs shared one-third each between farmers, industry and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
HOW GENOTYPING WORKS
Genotyping involves taking a tissue sample from breeding females and males and building a DNA bank of that data. When new calves are born, they are matched to their sire and dam. If carried out at national scale, genotyping would give the Irish cattle industry 100% traceability at the DNA level. The genetic data collected will be analysed to identify specific traits or characteristics that are important to farmers such as disease resistance, milk or meat production, or fertility. In addition, the information gathered will be used to develop breeding strategies aimed at improving the overall genetic merit of the herd. This voluntary genotyping programme over five years represents a significant step towards genotyping of the national bovine herd.