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Case Study: Environment

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme

Farming First Farming First

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme


The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is funded by the Irish Exchequer and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) under Ireland’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. It was launched in May 2015, and will run for six years, with some 25,000 farmers applying for entry into the programme.

Participation is open to suckler beef farmers who undertake a number of programme actions that focus on lowering emissions via support for increases in herd efficiency. Research indicates that introducing genetically superior animals, in terms of improved maternal traits, can lead to measureable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. For example, improving fertility reduces calving intervals and lowers the herd replacement rate thus reducing methane emissions per unit of product.

Programme actions include DNA sampling of breeding stock to establish a reliable genomic breeding index and to identify animals of superior genetic merit with lower associated greenhouse gas emissions. These animals are then utilised as replacement stock in BDGP participating herds. The programme also commits farmers to complete the Carbon Navigator tool for their farms, which builds on farm management data collected during an on-farm audit. It looks at practical areas, such as breeding and manure management, and identifies the potential impact of improved management on the farm’s environmental and economic performance. A training element of the programme provides information to farmers with regard to particular requirements at individual farm level.

In the preparatory analysis undertaken in designing the BDGP, greenhouse gas savings of between 86Kt and 300Kt of CO2 equivalent by 2020 were calculated. The benefits from the BDGP are permanent and cumulative, and larger gains can be expected post 2020 as the changed breeding focus takes full effect on the range of maternal traits addressed under the breeding aspects of programme.

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Case study prepared by:

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland

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