The Council of the Irish Charolais Cattle Society (ICCS) reject the changes made to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) Eurostar indexes implemented on the 28th of November, and call for them to be reverted immediately. We believe the current indexes to be inaccurate, and not a true reflection of the quality or value of the cattle on the ground. Furthermore, the ICCS are very concerned about the process used to implement these changes. No breeders or breed societies were given any input. Meetings were held and a number of queries were raised with ICBF. These queries were never answered. ICBF held a public webinar at which their moderator stated that a recording of the session would be provided, and that any questions not answered during the session would have answers sent to registrants afterwards. Neither the recording or the answers were ever provided. Up to 50 questions were sent to ICBF prior to a final meeting with the breed societies before the changes were implemented. These were never properly answered either.

Breed Societies requested a list of the top 100 AI bulls, displaying their current and new indexes, prior to the changes on November 28th, something that had been provided in the past. ICBF refused to provide this. The new Breed Averages were only provided a week prior to the changes, following pressure from Breed Societies. ICBF stated publicly that the changes were reviewed and approved by a Technical Group within ICBF, and an Industry Focus Group, before getting final approval by the Board of ICBF. The Society has serious concerns regarding the make up of these groups. The Society is also concerned with the general lack of transparency on how ICBF operate.

The Society has concerns regarding the “science” used by Teagasc to justify some of these changes. Carbon has been added into the indexes. This has a number of issues. The indexes as defined on the ICBF website are a monetary figure expressed as profit of progeny. Carbon has no effect on the value of an animal or the profit on the sale of an animal. Thus, how can it be included in an index based on monetary value and profit. Also, as we all know cows are carbon neutral. Yes, they emit methane which is a green house gas. However, this methane is converted to CO2 in the atmosphere and this CO2 is absorbed by plants during photosynthesis. Plants are in turn eaten by cows and so on. This is known as the Biogenic cycle. Teagasc, for reasons known only to themselves, have chosen to focus on the methane emissions, and ignore the rest of the biogenic cycle. To use a phrase from their own presentations on the changes, this is like focusing on the outputs and ignoring the inputs! Cows are carbon neutral and carbon has no effect on profitability. Therefore it should NOT be included in the ICBF indexes.

The new Age at Slaughter trait is again based on carbon, which as per above should not be in the index and therefore should be removed. Similarly, TB should not be included in the indexes based on economic value. The ICCS believe strongly in Genomics and how it can assist in the improvement of cattle breeding. However, we have no faith in the current indexes as implemented by ICBF. We would welcome the opportunity to work with ICBF to change the current indexes to correctly reflect the quality and profitability of the cattle on the ground.