THE eagerly-awaited Beef Data and Genomics Programme under Ireland’s 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme was launched this week by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD.
The programme will inject up to €52m per annum into the suckler beef sector to deliver accelerated genetic improvement in the national herd and improve its environmental and economic sustainability. Speaking at the launch in Crosshaven on Tuesday morning, Mr Coveney said: ‘I am delighted to launch this exciting programme today. Building on Ireland’s strong environmental credentials is a central part of our strategic policy focus for developing our livestock sectors and a key part of our messaging on international markets.
‘Improving the genetics of the national herd will enhance its carbon efficiency, and will also deliver significant economic benefits to farmers over time. The benefits of genetic gain are cumulative and permanent. With a budget of up to €52m per annum, the programme will assist around 35,000 beef farmer and is a major shot in the arm for the suckler sector.
‘ICBF will have a key role to play in facilitating the scheme and I was delighted that its Board unanimously endorsed the scheme at its meeting last week. I also want to thank Teagasc, AHI and Bord Bia for their contribution and advice on the technical elements of the programme.’
Participants in the programme will receive a payment of €142.50 per hectare for the first 6.66 payable hectares under the scheme, and €120 per payable hectare after that.
To obtain the payment, they will be required to take tissue samples from certain animals for genotyping, transmit a range of data relating to performance criteria and animal events to ICBF, and complete an on-farm carbon navigator, in order to provide them with the information they need to improve the carbon efficiency and profitability of the herd.
They will also be required to attend a training course to ensure that optimal use is made of their herd data, and to put a breeding and selection policy into practice by bringing high quality replacement bulls and heifers into the herd on a phased basis over the six years of the BDGP contract.
Acknowledging the importance of the suckler sector in Ireland, the Minister remarked: ‘Ireland’s beef sector is a major contributor to the economy, exports and employment, particularly in rural areas. While the expansion of the dairy herd will have an impact on beef output, our premium beef offering will continue to rely on a high quality suckler herd.
The Minister also appealed to farmers to study all aspects of the BDGP before applying. It is vital that anybody applying for the scheme understands that it involves a six-year contract and that entry to the scheme in year one means committing to staying the course for the full six years. This is essential if the programme is to have a meaningful impact.’
Concluding, Mr Coveney said: ‘This scheme marks another major milestone in positioning Ireland as a world leader in climate friendly agriculture. We will be only country in the world to apply genomic technologies and perform on-farm carbon assessments in the beef sector on such a massive scale.
‘I am confident that this programme will be transformative, and that progressive suckler farmers will embrace the innovative technologies that are at its core in a way that significantly enhances the efficiency of their farm enterprises. All in all, this is the most exciting and innovative development in beef farming in Ireland in many years’.