AFSB genetic improvement

Proposed genetics hub to transform Northern Ireland's livestock sectors

AbacusBio has been working with the Agri-Food Strategy Board’s Livestock Genetics Sub-group on assessing opportunities to further maximise economic gain through improved genetics – across the livestock sectors in Northern Ireland.

Genetic improvement continues to hold the key for increased productivity and economic gains in beef, sheep, and dairy sectors worldwide.

Last year, the Agri-Food Strategy Board (AFSB)’s Livestock Genetics Sub-group contracted AbacusBio to review genetic evaluation options for the livestock sectors in Northern Ireland.

The strategic and economic benefits of genetic improvement were also analysed.

The research has shown that there is much value to gain in existing genetic evaluation activities – in terms of both productivity and profitability.

However, genetic evaluation efforts are fragmented and often under-utilised, AbacusBio consultant Peter Amer says.

“This is due to the lack of access for some farmers to information such as genetics data. The availability of such information is not centralised and collated across the beef, sheep, and dairy sectors.”

There is a need to integrate the data across the livestock sectors together in one place, which allows farmers to more easily evaluate performance and ultimately make management decisions more confidently, AbacusBio consultant Jason Archer adds.

A report has recently been prepared in collaboration with the AFSB’s Livestock Genetics Sub-group and key stakeholders on recommendations to enhance genetic improvement for farming – one of which includes developing a single Northern Ireland hub.

The industry-wide data hub aims to coordinate data collection across livestock sectors, as well as generate information relating to genetic evaluation performance and management use.

“Farmers would be better able to identify best genetics and make well-informed decisions that give them the best chance of producing an animal with maximised market value,” AbacusBio consultant Tim Byrne says.

Other recommendations include the provision of external genetic evaluations and developing tools to drive business performance in farms.

“By driving this work forward, we expect to make a huge difference not just for the betterment of the industry, but individual farmers in delivering real economic gain,” Tim remarks with a sense of enthusiasm.

Peter and Jason recently presented the report outcomes to the AFSB and industry participants in Northern Ireland, who are now considering how the recommendations in the report will be progressed.

For more information about the AFSB, visit www.agrifoodstrategyboard.org.uk/