Six-year suckler scheme launched

The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney who launched 'The Beef Data and Genomics Programme under the rural development programme on the farm of Billy Nicholson right, Hoddersfield, Crossshaven Co. Cork with John O' Sullivan Chairman ICBF

Farmers applying for the new Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) must comply with a series of requirements, to which they will agree as part of the scheme’s six-year contract.

Farmers who participated in last year’s Beef Genomics Scheme and Beef Data Programme will be familiar with many of the requirements.

As part of the BDGP, participants must also attend a specific training course, with all training to be completed before November 2016.

When launching the BDGP in Crosshaven this week, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney appealed to farmers to study all aspects of the scheme before applying.

“I would encourage all potential applicants to invest some time in order to understand the full requirements of the programme,” he said.

“It is vital that anybody applying for the scheme understands that it involves a six-year contract and that entry to the scheme in year one means committing to staying the course for the full six years.

“This is essential if the programme is to have a meaningful impact. The terms and conditions and help-sheets that my Department are publishing will enable farmers to gain a full understanding of what is required.”

Payment will be made at the rate of €142.50 for each of the first 6.66 hectares of eligible forage area and €120 on the remaining eligible forage area.

The eligible hectares on which an applicant is entitled to claim will be equal to the number of calved cows on his/her holding in 2014 (known as reference animals) divided by a standard stocking rate of 1.5. This is subject to a limit which is set by the eligible forage land declared by the applicant on his/her 2014 SPS application.

Participants will be required to register all newborn calves within 27 days of birth, provide sire numbers, and complete a survey relating to calving ease. Farmers will also complete a range of surveys relating to the calves, cows and bulls in the applicant’s herd.

Participating farmers will also be required to genotype all of the animals specified by the ICBF. Each year, around 60% of an applicant’s number of animals referenced in 2014 will be genotyped.

At least one stock bull on the holding on June 30, 2019, must have been genotyped four-star or five-star on either the Terminal or Replacement index and this, or a similar four-star or five-star bull, must be retained on the holding until June 30, 2020.

To avoid any compliance difficulties, ICBF is strongly advising participants to introduce four-star or five-star bulls at the next replacement date.

When using AI, at least 80% of the AI used must be from four-star or five-star bulls on the Terminal or Replacement index. This applies from June 30, 2016.

Where a participating farmer’s practice is to lease a bull, the farmer must inform the Department of Agriculture by June 30, 2016, of his/her intention to do so during the course of the scheme.

Specific terms and conditions are detailed on the department’s website.

Similar commitments are required in relation to heifers. The farmer must ensure that a percentage of his/her heifers and/or eligible suckler cows are genotyped females that are: (i) 4 or 5 stars on the replacement index; (ii) at least 16 months old; and (iii) born in 2013 or later.

The number of heifers/eligible suckler cows meeting these requirements on each holding on October 31, 2018, must be equivalent to 20% of the number of the applicant’s reference animals (on the farm in 2014) and on October 31, 2020, must be equivalent to 50% of the applicant’s reference animals.

As the EU funding for this programme was approved under article 28 on the basis of its positive climate impacts, the Department of Agriculture is also requiring applicants to complete a carbon navigator with an approved advisor before October 31, 2016.

This is a tool which estimates the potential green house gas reductions and financial savings that could be made on each farm. The farmer will provide ICBF with carbon navigator data for annual updating.

Minister Simon Coveney said: “This scheme marks another major milestone in positioning Ireland as a world leader in climate-friendly agriculture. We will be only country in the world to apply genomic technologies and perform on-farm carbon assessments in the beef sector on such a massive scale.

“I am confident that this programme will be transformative, and that progressive suckler farmers will embrace the innovative technologies that are at its core in a way that significantly enhances the efficiency of their farm enterprises. All in all, this is the most exciting and innovative development in beef farming in Ireland in many years.”

ICBF’s Sean Coughlan said: “The farmers who participated in the scheme in 2014 didn’t find it too onerous. We will be doing priority herds once the tags come back in September. We expect to have around 300,000 to 350,000 animals genotyped.

“We have a target of around 25,000 cattle per week. It is a challenging logistical exercise for the ICBF, but our experience from the 2014 scheme will stand to us.”

ICBF’s Andrew Cromie said: “Eurostar data will be available for the scheme, with a three-month tracing programme reporting results of the tests, and the number of four-star and five-star animals the farmer has in the herd.

“It is a six-year strategy, and the type of animal will change over that time. We will concentrate on female animals first, but we will also be looking at bull calves.

“People will know by the end of May if they are accepted into the scheme. The first tags [for genotype sampling] should be out in September, once the herds have been confirmed and identified.”


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