Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Coveney blueprint bids to treble beef discussion groups

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

A trebling in the number of beef discussion groups to 300 is the ambitious target set out in a new blueprint for the industry.

Details on the €5m beef discussion group announcement are being finalised for a roll-out of the initiative early in the new year.

The programme will be based on the hugely successful programme that is already operating in the dairy sector. In the space of just two years, the dairy discussion group programme has doubled the number of farmers participating in discussion groups by paying them €1,000 for participating.

However, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has set the bar even higher for the beef technology adoption programme, with a target of trebling the number of beef discussion groups.

It is hoped that this will bring the total number of farmers participating in the programme to 4,500, although the €5m budget provides for an additional 500 farmers if the average payment is set at €1,000 per participant.

"It's a very ambitious target but a good time to do it," said Teagasc's beef programme manager, Bernard Smyth. "It will be especially relevant now that beef prices have risen and it will allow farmers to rely more on what's going on inside their farm gate for their income rather than looking to Europe."

It is expected that the programme will be implemented over three years, with the possibility of extending it following a review of its operations after year two.

It will be managed by the Department with the assistance of trained Teagasc or private advisers facilitating discussion groups. It will be open to existing discussion group members and those wishing to join or form groups for the first time.

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A maximum of 20 members per discussion group is envisaged, although this will be left to the discretion of the facilitators and may need to be increased to cope with numbers.


Teagasc will be allocating 110 of their advisers to the programme, 35 of whom will be beef specialists, with the remainder being drawn from the pool of advisrs traditionally working in REPS.

All participants must be signed up to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation's (ICBF) Herdplus prior to joining a discussion group, while suckler farmers must be in the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme.

Each farmer will be required to focus on best practice in four key areas: grassland management, breeding, financial management and herd health.

In order to qualify for the payment, participants must attend at least six out of eight group meetings a year. They will also be required to host at least one group meeting over the three-year period. Attendance at one national or regional event, such as an open day in Grange, is likely to qualify as one of the group meetings.

Farmers will also have to complete a three-year plan outlining their current and target stocking rates, turnout dates, calving patterns, liveweight gains, and financial performance. Sixty percent of the €1,000 payment will be made on the basis of meeting these criteria.

The remaining 40pc will be paid when a farmer completes two tasks each year from a menu of options. These will include completing a profit monitor for the previous production year, submitting certified livestock weights to ICBF, participating in a producer or processor partnership, using AI sires on at least half of the herd or participating in the Gene Ireland young bull programme operated by ICBF. The last option involves getting a herd health plan certified by a vet.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the dairy discussion group programme is to be extended for another year.

Indo Farming