AFSB outlines genetic improvement research

Pictured are: (L-R) Trevor Lockhart (AFSB Member), Peter Amer (AbacusBio), Tony O'Neill (AFSB Chair), Jason Archer (AbacusBio) and Ian Marshall (AFSB Member).
Pictured are: (L-R) Trevor Lockhart (AFSB Member), Peter Amer (AbacusBio), Tony O'Neill (AFSB Chair), Jason Archer (AbacusBio) and Ian Marshall (AFSB Member).

The Agri-Food Strategy Board’s Livestock Genetics Sub-group has outlined the findings of its report into delivering genetic improvement within the beef, dairy and sheep sectors in the future to the industry organisations that provided funding for the research.

Working with world renowned geneticists AbacusBio and key stakeholders, local industry representatives have reviewed options for the delivery of genetic evaluation across livestock sectors and considered opportunities for maximising economic gain through improved genetics.

The research has concluded that whilst there is much of value in existing genetic evaluation activities, efforts have been fragmented and outcomes under-utilised. The group concluded that opportunities existed to develop further value from existing activities, particularly if data-collection was managed on a more integrated basis via a single Northern Ireland hub, generating information such as comprehensive physical and financial performance evaluation reports.

Key productivity opportunities identified include improved farm management decision-making, better management of animal health and disease, and increased economic gain via genetic improvement.

AbacusBio has put forward ambitious and challenging recommendations for the local livestock sector to:

l Build business relationships and the IT infrastructure required to bring together data from different parts of the dairy, beef and sheep value chain;

l Provide comprehensive external genetic evaluations to increase the rate of genetic gain within the dairy, beef and sheep sectors; and

l Develop a comprehensive suite of farm livestock evaluation tools to help local farmers bring about real change in their business performance.

It is proposed that this work is driven forward by an existing or new industry led organisation which will take ownership of an industry wide data hub, co-ordinating data collection services, provide genetic evaluation information and promote its use and produce management information reports for the industry and individuals to use to deliver real economic gain.

The research findings and implications for the future are now being considered by the Agri-Food Strategy Board.