Farm Ireland

Thursday 18 April 2019

Scramble for sucklers as farmers face 40% cut in BDGP payments


Stock image. Picture: Alf Harvey/
Stock image. Picture: Alf Harvey/

Martin Ryan and Louise Hogan

A cramble to buy quality suckler replacement stock kicked off this week after the Department of Agriculture informed hundreds of farmers their herds would not meet required breeding standards.

Farmers would lose 40pc of their total payment under the six-year €300m Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) if they do not have enough high-genetic animals in their herd.

The Department has confirmed that the ICBF's most recent evaluation reports found that 750 of the current 23,000 farmers in the first phase of the scheme do not have enough four or five star animals in their herds to meet the 20pc female replacement criteria required by October 31, 2018.

A further 700 are creeping over the line with just sufficient animals to satisfy this requirement.

Letters are now being sent out to farmers with eligibility reports, updating them on the status of the animals in their herd for the replacement requirements.

"The Department, in conjunction with ICBF and Teagasc, will be holding a series of workshops in the coming weeks to advise these farmers on what is required by them in order to reach this commitment under BDGP I," a Department spokesman stated.

"When farmers joined the scheme, they were advised in the terms and conditions that they would lose 40pc of total payment if they do not satisfy this requirement by October 31, 2018."


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ICMSA livestock chair Des Morrison said that everything must be done to ensure that farmers do not receive a penalty relating to the four or five star condition.

He said each of the farmers must be told immediately what they "need to do to achieve compliance".

"Those who are close to falling below the 20pc barrier must be informed, and flexibility needs to be shown to those not meeting the target for genuine reasons," said Mr Morrison.

Pedigree breed society bosses raised a number of concerns over the scheme, describing the difficulties breeders were experiencing in meeting targets as "worrying".

The ICBF's Kevin Downing pointed out that the reports captured a certain point in time and it changes in line with animal movements and sales.

"It is a guideline of where they are today so that they can act now," he said, adding that at this point, it was too late to breed replacements for October.

Farmers were urged to look towards the 50pc requirement standard for October 2020 when choosing bulls this spring. "It is a warning really," he added.

"The Department will be looking at ways of communicating best with farmers who are in a vulnerable position and lay out the options for them," said Mr Downing.

He pointed out that the BDGP 2018 tags would be going out on farms in the coming weeks and there would be a good percentage of animals currently not genotyped.

Options for farmers include purchasing females that are already genotyped and four or five star, checking to see if there are suitable replacements within the herd that have been sampled but not had a genomic evaluation published, or genotyping animals in the herd that will become eligible before the October deadline.

Mr Downing said for those purchasing, any animal that has been genetically evaluated will be marked four and five stars on the mart boards and farmers can look up every animal on the ICBF website.

"It is very important that farmers are aware it is not a four and five until you have the genetic evaluation on it," he said, adding private genotyping of animals costs €22.

Farmers are required to genotype 60pc of all the reference animals in their herd.

Peadar Glennon, secretary of the Simmental Cattle Society, said that the difficulties which breeders are experiencing within the scheme are "worrying". He said farmers were being "pushed" to follow "very tight bloodlines".

"Breeders are going for pedigrees that have delivered quality in the past," he said, adding with the suckler sector under pressure, the scheme should be re-examined.

Charolais Society president Kevin Maguire said he feels it is "not possible" for herd owners to plan a breeding programme under the present scheme.

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