What has the EBI brought to dairy producers?

The Sustainable Livestock Summit kicked off last night (Tuesday 5th April), with the first episode focusing on the Economic Livestock Index (EBI) results for Irish farmers.

The EBI was launched in 2001, replacing the Relative Reproduction Index (RBI) that was in place. The EBI has been in place for 20 years now and its success in many farms is undeniable.

The index is composed of seven sub-indices. Of these, milk production and fertility are the two most valuable traits, each contributing 33%.

The sub-indices are: (1) Milk production; (2) Fertility; (3) calving performance; (4) beef carcass; (5) Maintenance of cows; (6) Cow management; and (7) Health.

The economic values ​​in the index are based on data collected from Irish dairy farms and the dairy industry.

Sustainable Livestock Summit

In last night’s episode, George Ramsbottom, a dairy specialist at Teagasc, was asked about how the EBI has delivered results for Irish farmers.

George told viewers: ‘EBI has generated around €1 billion in extra profits for dairy farmers over the past 20 years.’

“This has been achieved through improved milk production and fertility within the national herd,” he said.

He added that the EBI is now gaining international recognition as dairy farmers seek to become more sustainable.

George Rambottom

From RBI to EBI

Eoin McCarthy, a dairy farmer from Kilorglin, Co. Kerry, explained how the use of EBI has grown on his farm since its introduction.

Eoin told the panel and viewers that in the early 1990s the focus on farms was the RBI system, which was based solely on what a cow was going to milk.

He explained that he was interested in keeping the cows in his herd and taking a break in December.

“When the EBI came out, I could see huge benefits on the fertility side,” he said.

“It helped keep and breed fertile cows, which the RBI never allowed you to do.”


Robert Hovenden, a dairy farmer from Rathdowney, Co. Laois, commenting on the fertility and having a compact calving, said: “It’s tough when it gets going, but it eases the rest of the year.

“That means you’re entering breeding season, without calving season – it’s one thing at a time.”

Michael Ryan, a dairy farmer from Cashel, Co. Tipperary added: “20 years ago when I was at university, Farmer of the Year had a calving interval of 402 days.

“Now the farmers on the panel here are looking at a 365-day calving interval. Using EBI on farms has almost naturally improved fertility within herds.