Farm Ireland

Thursday 23 November 2017

€5m beef discussion group plan is launched

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Beef farmers have just over a month to apply for the Department of Agriculture's new Beef Discussion Group scheme, worth about €1,000 per farmer.

Final details of the discussion group scheme began to emerge as the Farming Independent went to press.

The full package was tipped to be outlined by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney at the Teagasc suckler event in Cillin Hill, Kilkenny, last night.

With a proposed closing date of March 16, farmers must meet stringent criteria in order to qualify for the €5m fund earmarked for the scheme this year.

It is understood that payment for participation in the new scheme is earmarked for December this year.

To qualify for payment under the scheme, each farmer must attend at least six discussion groups events with an accredited facilitator. Certain beef meetings could also be approved as discussion group events.

Farmers must also complete a Teagasc profit monitor or similar farm profitability programme with a private agricultural consultant.

Applicants must then choose a further two options from a menu of actions to qualify.

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The list of optional measures includes:

-Providing birth weights and 200-day weights for all calves born on the farm to ICBF.

-Using an AI bull or stock bull with a five-star €uroStar rating on suckler cows or, alternatively, using bulls from the Gene Ireland panel;

-Completing a herd health plan for the farm in consultation with a vet;

-Reseeding 10pc of the farm on an annual basis;

-Implementing a rotational grazing system on the farm;

-If the farm is stocked at less than 170kg N/ha (non-derogation levels), completing a whole farm soil analysis;

-Registering calf births online, maintaining the farm herd register online and applying for the single farm payment online.

With around 1,500 beef farmers already participating in beef discussion groups, it is hoped the new scheme will increase participation to 5,000 farmers by the end of this year.

The scheme will be run over three years. While funding of €5m has been allocated for this year, funding for the subsequent two years will depend on the scheme uptake in year one and availability of exchequer funding.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said the new scheme would pay a huge dividend to the State through increased technical efficiency and greater output on cattle farms.

However, he said the Department should ensure the money went to the most committed and progressive farmers.

"This is a real value-for-money scheme for the State and it is critical that funding is made available for the next three years," Mr Gilmartin said.

"In the longer term, it is obvious that a scheme like this will be well placed to qualify for Pillar 2 funding under the CAP reform proposals."

Indo Farming