By Frances Titterington and Steven Morrison
Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute
IT is well known that successful breeding, which includes the selection of high performing sires, will improve key production and profit-driving characteristics, such as beef or milk production, fertility or calving ease.
However, even though half of a calf’s genetic potential comes from the sire, researchers at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) have found that less than 10 per cent of calf births registered in Northern Ireland included information that could identify the individual sire.
To address this, AFBI initiated a project and assembled a team of stakeholders, including farmers and representatives from breed societies, breeding companies, DAERA, CAFRE, milk recording organisations and AgriSearch.
The objective was to understand why so few farmers were recording sire details and what could be done to increase the level of recording.
It was immediately apparent that farmers found it difficult to enter sire data. For example, the tag number of a bull which had left the herd was not displayed in APHIS, even though calves sired by him could continue to be born up to nine months after his departure.
In addition, the tag number of a sire from artificial insemination (AI) may not be readily available.
To address the issue, and using stakeholders’ inputs, AFBI advised DAERA on key changes that were needed to the birth registration process.
Many of these changes have now been embedded into the APHIS system and will also feature in the forthcoming APHIS replacement system NIFAIS (Northern Ireland Food Animal Information System).
These changes have been designed to streamline the data entry process and make it easier to complete notifications as well as simplifying the sire recording process.
With greater numbers of sires recorded will come greater knowledge of which sires are passing on favourable characteristics to their calves. This will be a key driver of genetic improvement in local herds.
The specific changes include:
Sire ear tag – When selecting ear tag, there is the option to select bulls currently in the herd and bulls which have been registered to the herd in the previous 12 months; meaning last year’s sire can be registered accurately.
Sire breed – Similar to the previous entry form but now the most common breeds are conveniently listed at the top of the drop down box to facilitate data entry.
NMR AI code – The six digit National Milk Records AI code identifies individual AI sires and gives an accurate record of any straws used (for example Bomaz Alta Topshot ET has the following six digit code: HO4739). This information is available from AI catalogues and online at www.nmr.co.uk
Other – An opportunity to enter additional data about the sire.
In addition to this new functionality for entering new notifications, it is possible to update sire information for current animals in the herd, meaning details such as the NMR code can be added. You can also view the sire information in both the APHIS herd list (via a check box option on the herd list) or individually on a single animal basis (through “View animal details”).
Since the introduction of AFBI’s suggested changes to the system in December 2017, the level of individually identifiable sires recorded on APHIS has more than doubled from 10 per cent to over 21 per cent. Improved levels of sire recording will help producers to make future breeding choices and enhance the user’s experience of AFBI’s online suite of cattle management tools including BovIS.
If you would like more information on the updates to APHIS and training resources please visit www.daera-ni.gov.uk/aphis-online-support which has information on training courses offered by CAFRE or contact the DAERA Online Services Helpdesk on 028 9442 6699 or email firstname.lastname@example.org