Why we are saying 'No' to the beef data and genomics scheme
After a lot of thought and soul-searching, we have withdrawn from the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP).
Our Euro-star report showed that 98pc of the females currently in our herd meet the four and five star requirement on the replacement index.
A lot of our homebred heifers, which we would consider to be beef animals, are showing up as four or five star on the replacement index. But we know from past experience that these heifers, when slaughtered, will be U grade or better. In my opinion, they are too muscled to breed from and they certainly wouldn't be very milky.
Maybe 20pc genomic testing might have been more prudent in the long term. So, while you would hope that the indices are right, they are not proven over a significant timescale.
Also, like a lot of farmers, I went to the public meetings to find out all the information that I could about the scheme. But the fact that no one from the Department of Agriculture turned up at the two meetings I attended really set it off on the wrong note in my mind. I felt that it was a total lack of respect to suckler farmers.
Then the payment per cow was one of those awkward figures, too big to ignore and not big enough to make a real difference, especially when you consider all of the other implicit and hidden costs of the programme.
But while there were several things about the scheme that we didn't necessarily agree with, the real deal breaker for us is the six year rule.
We would be tying ourselves into the system for six years and that doesn't make business sense for us. The fact that I was 58 on my last birthday and while I would like to think that I would be calving the same number of suckler cows when, as the song goes, I'm 64, there are just too many unknowns.