When identifying the most profitable animals in genetic terms, there are two critical elements:
- Ancestry data (i.e. Sire and Dam).
- Performance data (i.e. how well animals performed for a number of traits)
All this relevant information is stored in a central database controlled by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation.
Where does the data come from?
Ancestry data comes from two main sources:
- Calf Registration - in order to get an animal passport, a farmer indicates the sex, date of birth, dam of the calf, and since the introduction of Animal Events, the sire information.
- Breed Societies - who have been maintaining the ancestry of pedigree animals for many years.
What is “Animal Events”
Animal Event is the system for recording ancestry and performance data on farm. The principle of Animal Events is that farmers should record information once only and that all cattle breeding organisations would then have access to this data for the purpose of providing cattle breeding services to the farmer. Having one standard system removes any unnecessary duplication of time and expense on behalf of both the farmer and the service organisations, i.e. the principle of "single point of entry and no duplication". Farmers can contribute data to the database either by filling an Animal Event Booklet or electronically transferring the relevant data using approved farm computer packages.
Once a calf’s birth details and ancestry have been recorded in animal events, its performance through its lifetime is automatically and systematically recorded into to the central database where it can be used for genetic evaluation purposes.
Performance data comes from a wide variety of sources.
Calf Registration to the Cattle Movement Monitoring System (CMMS).
The registration of a calf automatically provides information on:
- Calf Mortality
- Calving Interval of the dam
- Survivability of the dam
- Age of 1st Calving
Animal Events Recording :
- Calving difficulty (direct & maternal)
- Gestation length (when combined with service details)
- On – farm weight recording
Marts & Auctions :
- Liveweight data
- Animal value/price
- Carcass Weight data
- Carcass Conformation data
- Carcass Fat
AI Companies :
- Gestation length (when combined with calving dates)
Linear Scoring and Weighing :
- Linear assessment at weaning (used for linear type indexes muscle, skeletal, functionality, docility and to predict calf quality)
- Weaning weight
Linear Scoring at Weaning:
Linear scoring is a visual assessment, which describes the phenotype of an animal by assigning scores for a number of different traits. A minimum of 14 traits are scored between 8 & 12 months of age and entered into the central database where they are analysed and composited into Muscle, Skeletal, Functionality and Docility indexes. Weighing of the animal also takes place at this time to calculate a weaning weight index and also allows for the generation of useful maternal indexes especially milk ability.
Pioneered by the French evaluation system, this Linear Scoring has been a major part of the Irish Limousin breed since it was first introduced in 1992. The similarities between the Irish & French visual assessment allows for very meaningful genetic links and comparisons between both countries.
Pure bred animals constitute only a small proportion of the beef cattle population of Ireland, but have an essential role to play in the production of functional and harmonious high merit breeding bulls to be used in the commercial herd. Through a high level of Linear Scoring the Irish Limousin Cattle Society have led the way in breeding such highmerit animals, by identifying the best bloodlines and selection accordingly. Linear scoring remains to be a vital cog in the new era of genetic evaluation.
Why should I Linear Score?
- On–farm Linear Scoring of animals at weaning provides data used to generate, muscle, skeletal and functionality composites. These composites are used to rank bulls for their muscling ability, size/frame and their functional ability, respectively.
- Historically, muscle, skeletal & docility indexes are used to benchmark the genetic improvement of the breed for these traits
- New unproven AI bulls have very little information available as to how they are breeding. Linear scoring rapidly provides unbiased data, which will give a preliminary indication as to the performance of their progeny.
- For high use AI sires, each linear score trait can be used to build a linear profile of the bull. This allows pedigree breeders to establish exactly how the bull is breeding for the individual traits especially the functionality traits.
- The breed improvement system in the Limousin homeland in France also use linear scoring at weaning as the main source of animal performance data used in their genetic evaluation system. Similar methods of linear scoring between both countries allows for easy comparison of bloodlines between Ireland and France. Also, all Southern born animals eligible for the Beef Quality Initiative in Northern Ireland must have been linear scored.
- Linear score traits are highly heritable when compared to other traits such as fertility. Therefore if you wish to improve a trait and you select for it, then you are much more likely to make rapid improvements.
- Linear score data is collected from the animal at an early age in the animals life. Therefore, in the new beef breeding indexes, linear scoring information is used to predict “calf quality” and “carcass conformation” where no slaughter data is already available. When weight recording is carried out in conjunction with linear scoring at weaning, both sets of data are used to generate the new Weanling Export Index.
- Linear scoring is not restricted to pedigree animals. Commercial animals can also be linear scored at weaning to strengthen the genetic evaluation.
- Most importantly, linear scoring at weaning allows for the calculation of the Docility index. Wild bloodlines can be culled from the herd and removed from breeding. Quiet bloodlines can be selected and continue the improvement of this trait in the national population.
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