Budget for BGS based on take-up by farmers of similar schemes

The estimate of 550,000 calves benefiting from the new Beef Genomics Scheme (BGS) is based on experience of the average take-up by farmers of similar schemes, such as the suckler-cow welfare scheme.

This is how the Department of Agriculture calculated the €23m budget for the new scheme.

Par ticipation of 32,000 farms is expected (the current Beef Data Programme has 32,000 participants), and the budget will cover BGS payments of €40 per calf for 550,000 calves, male and female.

Any farmer, with suckler cows, who is a participant in the Beef Data Programme can join the Beef Genomics Scheme (as can new Beef Data Programme participants, after that scheme is re-opened in 2014).

When the new scheme’s €23m is added to the €10m to be paid out under the Beef Data Programme in 2014 (€20 per calf for a farmer’s first 20 calves only), there is up to €60 per calf available.

With €5m available under the Beef Technology Adoption Programme, and €2m in payments under the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, payments will total €40m directly to farmers in the suckler-cow sector in 2014.

The €40 per calf in the Beef Genomics Scheme is subject to the overall scheme limit of €23m. To earn it, the farmer must genotype 15% of his cows by submitting samples to ICBF.

Farmers who own a stock bull must also have it genotyped.

The farmer will pay ICBF for the collection kit, which is required for the animals selected for genotyping, and for the cost of genotyping (estimated at €30 per animal).

Farmers with BVD ‘persistently infected’ calves will have to commit to disposing of them. Full details of the scheme’s terms and conditions will be available short-ly, said Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney.

He was responding, in the Dail, to a question from Michael Healy-Rae, TD, who asked that the cost of BGS sampling be reduced to €15.

“I am confident that the cost of sampling for the BGS will be reasonable,” said Mr Coveney.

At the Macra na Feirme annual conference, he didn’t give a figure for the cost to delegates, but said that it will “only be a fraction of what you’re getting”.

The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation’s (ICBF) role in the new scheme is to select cows, from each suckler herd, for genotyping, send a kit for collection of each sample to the farmer for return to ICBF, have the samples genotyped and the results entered in a database, and forward to the farmer the genomic information on each animal.

It is hoped to open the new scheme to applicants in early 2014.

¦ Farmers in the Beef Data Programme are required to record data through the animal-events system or the Department of Agriculture’s on-line system.

The required data, on breeding and fertility, is similar to what was required for the suckler-welfare scheme. But other suckler-welfare scheme conditions need no longer be met to qualify for payment.

Collected data will assist the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation in compiling a comprehensive beef-breeding database, ultimately helping farmers to make better cattle-breeding decisions.

Funding of €10m in 2013 has been allocated for the Beef Data Programme, from unspent single-farm payment funds.

At the Macra na Feirme annual conference, Mr Coveney confirmed that his department will pay farmers under the beef-data programme, before the end of the year.

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