The €50/head Beef Welfare Scheme will open for applications in August. The maximum payment a farmer can draw down is €2,000 on 40 cows.

Eligible calves for the scheme must be born between 1 July 2023 and 30 June 2024. Meal-feeding is the main component of the scheme, similar to last year, but the introduction of a pneumonia vaccination/clostridial vaccination programme has caused some confusion and anger among autumn-calving suckler farmers.

To be eligible for the €15/head vaccination payment, a farmer must keep a record of purchase and use of vaccines on the animals they wish to get payment for.

Autumn calves

A huge issue has arisen in relation to autumn 2023-born calves. Short grass supplies in the south of the country and a very good weanling trade, meant that the majority of autumn-born weanlings have already been sold this year, leaving them ineligible for the €15/head top-up payment in the new scheme.

Calf birth registration data shows that there were over 100,000 births on suckler farms from July-September 2023.

“Farmers with autumn-born weanlings were not provided with any clarification of the measures required to qualify, and as such are effectively frozen out. The minister cannot stand over a situation where he provides details of a scheme requiring actions on-farm when the animals are gone,” said IFA livestock chair Declan Hanrahan.

Last year’s scheme contained the controversial IBR testing element and as a result just 16,424 farmers applied to the scheme, down from 25,000 participants in 2022. This meant that almost €10m in funding allocated to the Beef Welfare Scheme in 2023 went unspent.