New beef genomics scheme will boost suckler herd performance, says Creed

Stock picture. Damien Eagers / INM
Stock picture. Damien Eagers / INM

Martin Ryan

A revised Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP) will be submitted by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed for funding under the next round of CAP.

While defending the success of scheme as a means of encouraging the production of higher-quality progeny from the suckler herd, the minister admitted that changes are needed.

"We will have to look at how to devise a scheme in the next round of CAP which takes into account the weaknesses in the current programme," he told Deputy Martin Kenny (SF) in a Dáil debate on the current schemes.

"I am not saying it (the current scheme) is perfect but it is delivering efficiency. Calving interval days have been reduced by 20 days, calves per cow have increased also, and the number of births per known sire is up 8pc, with AI breeding up 2pc," he said.

Deputy Kenny said the underspend in the scheme of up to €10m should be used to enable other farmers to participate.

"We need to see whether it is possible for more farmers to get into the scheme and to have its onerous nature addressed," he said. "Some of the rules and issues around star ratings mean a lot of farmers have found it very difficult to meet the criteria of the scheme.

"A review of that must take place. Where that number of applicants drop out of a scheme, there is clearly a problem and a need to reassess."

The minister replied: "We have made some concessions recently on terms and conditions for stock bulls so we are tweaking the programme where possible. It is driving efficiency and it is regrettable that more farmers do not participate."

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The minister conceded it was "unfortunate that only approximately one in three suckler farmers are in the scheme" and of the 29,903 farmers who applied in 2015 for BDGP I, 6,858 have either withdrawn or have been disqualified, while of the 1,896 who joined BDGP II in 2017, only 1,499 active participants are left.

"It is often said that the quality of stock going through the factories is dropping. That may well be so. There is an increase in the volume of non-suckler beef and beef from herds which are not participating in BDGP. However, BDGP herds show that significant economic and environmental efficiencies are being delivered," the minister said.

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