Sustainable Ruminant Genetics launched

Livestock & Meat Commission June 28, 2023

Sustainable Ruminant Genetics (SRG) Limited held an event on 27 June at Thoburn McCaughey’s farm, Broughshane, to promote the Ruminant Genetics Programme announced by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) last week.

SRG, a non-profit initiative, is a strategic partnership between the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), Dairy Council for Northern Ireland (DCNI), Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) and Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA). SRG will work in collaboration with DAERA to develop the Ruminant Genetics Programme and create high engagement from the dairy and red meat sectors.

SRG chair Victor Chestnutt said, “The Ruminant Genetics Programme will provide farmers with the required tools and data, supporting them to make better, more informed breeding decisions. This will create breeding practices that are more productive resulting in carbon efficient animals.

“Phase one of the programme will focus on the genetic improvement of dairy and beef cattle, but it is also intended to advance genetic improvement in the sheep sector. A different solution will be required for sheep, compared to cattle, as there is no centrally held database for sheep. SRG will work with DAERA to incorporate the sheep sector into the genetics programme at the earliest opportunity taking into consideration the recent report by the Northern Ireland Sheep Industry Taskforce, outlining its vision for the future of the sheep sector.”

It is estimated that only 12% of NI’s dairy cows and 3% of suckler cows are involved in physical or financial benchmark reporting compared to 70% of dairy and suckler cows in the Republic of Ireland. To improve this, SRG will work to encourage farmers to engage with the Ruminant Genetics Programme showcasing the benefits for their farm business and the environment.

“The aim is to have 70% of dairy and beef cows included in the programme benchmarking services within five years from when the programme was launched. Genetic profiling and DNA testing of cattle will be required to deliver the desired genetics evaluations and SRG is currently exploring options with DAERA to deliver this. However, no decisions have been made regarding the scale required or the timing of delivery.

“The focus now for SRG is on promoting the Ruminant Genetics Programme and engaging with farmers to inform them about how they can avail of its services including benchmark reports and training. By getting involved in the programme, NI farmers will gain vital data that can drive breeding decisions based on genetic merit assessment to suit their individual business objectives, which in turn will help reduce their carbon footprint contributing to climate change targets,” said Mr Chestnutt.