Angus Woods operated a mixed suckler to beef, sheep and tillage farm in Co Wicklow. There are 60 Limousine cross cows which are bred to Aubrac bulls, selling finished steers, heifers, young bulls and cows. The farm participates in the BDGP scheme from 2015 to 2020, with the two main objectives being to lower the intensity of GHG emissions by improving the quality and efficiency of the beef herd and to improve the genetic merit of the beef herd through the collection of data and genotypes of selected animals which will allow for the application of genomic selection in the herd. In addition, in 2020, the herd also commenced participation in the BEEP-S scheme to further increase economic and environmental efficiency through better quality data on herd performance, supporting decision making on the farm and support of best practice in welfare management.
Angus Woods participated in the BDGP scheme from 2015 to 2020 and has now entered the BEEP-S scheme, which is set to run for a number of years. These schemes involve various commitments by the farmer, which have to be implemented on farm over the period of the scheme.
The main values/benefits were improved genetic performance in the herd with the scheme providing more confidence on bull purchase based on data available nationally. This in turn reduced calving difficulties and improved maternal traits in the cow herd. On the cows, there was an increased focus on the type of cow, which would deliver a calf each year. Constant measurement through the BDGP scheme enabled genetic improvement.
Main challenges included recording data, meeting deadlines and getting familiar with a new technology which adopts a scientific approach towards assessing breeding performance.
Key successes were observing the increased performance and genetic improvement over the period. Training also helped the implementation.
The good practice can be monitored via the schemes, which measure the genetic gain in the herd.
- A scientific approach towards breed improvement is essential.
- Measurement is essential to make progress on genetics, technical performance and carbon footprint.
- A national Government/EU funded scheme is vital to drive progress on longer term issues like genetic gain and carbon footprint.
- Socio-economic resilience: Increased efficiency and performance increased output and income. More productivity from the same number of lighter cows. DLG improved. Selling animals at younger ages and improved quality. There is a win/win gain with reducing the carbon footprint.
- Animal health and welfare: Improved genetics and fertility reduced veterinary costs.
- Production efficiency and meat quality: Improved genetics improved production efficiency and meat quality (younger finished stock for sale).
- Environmental sustainability: By measuring carbon footprint through the Carbon Navigator and at the same time increasing production efficiency and output through better breeding and genetics, the carbon footprint of the herd reduced.