The Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) will play a key role in protecting suckler farmers from low prices in the marketplace. A good support structure around sucklers is extremely important for the future of the Irish suckler herd. Without adequate supports, suckling is a loss-making business – that’s why it’s so important.

Someone looking in from the outside might say, let the suckler cow go. If they can’t stand on their own feet, what’s the point in pouring millions into an industry that’s not profitable without supports? Just go dairying.

Many suckler farmers, particularly those on better land and on larger farms, have taken that decision. It’s a brave decision to make and for the majority it was the right decision.

According to Teagasc National Farm Survey data for 2021, the average dairy farmer income was €100,000 compared to a €15,000 average income on the average suckler farm. You don’t need a calculator to work that one out.

So if you’re farming on good land and have a lot of it, you have options. But what if you don’t. Are we to forget about an industry, put all our eggs in one basket and get behind the dairy sector to drive on?


Personally I think we have a duty to support all farmers, regardless of their farm system, with particular emphasis on the group that needs it most – and that’s drystock farmers.

In many parts of the west of Ireland there is no other farming type so it’s important that we maintain the social fabric of these areas through farming, as has happened for generations before us.

If you take farming out of these areas, you take people out of these areas and a whole lot more – schools, shops, post offices, Garda stations and, most importantly, economic activity.

We have a world-renowned beef industry built on the back of the suckler cow. While more and more beef will come from the dairy herd in the future, it’s important we don’t lose sight of the marketing value of the suckler cow. As a country exporting 90% of the beef that we produce, telling a positive story is very important. I’m not sure we will draw on as many heart strings with Friesian bullocks.

We’ve covered every angle possible in this week’s SCEP special magazine. We take a look at the all-important payment rate in SCEP for herds with different numbers of cows.

Darren Carty takes a look at the relatively simple application process and some of the common mistakes people make while filling out the online application form.

Chris Daly takes a look at the huge amount of data generated from the Beef Data and Genomics Programme and what progress has been made nationally in terms of carcase weight, age at slaughter and fertility traits.

The Irish Farmers Journal livestock team has received hundreds of questions since the launch of the programme and we answer some of the most popular ones asked over the last number of weeks.

Quality assurance

The requirement for participants to be Bord Bia quality assured has generated a lot of discussion among farmers, with many asking why it is part of the programme. Andrew Mahon from Bord Bia takes a look at what farmers need to do to join the scheme. He also takes a look at the top areas that trip farmers up when it comes to their 18-month audits.

Pascal Coughlan takes a look at a 30-cow herd and how that farmer will hit the targets over the five-year programme. We also speak to a few suckler farmers to gauge their reaction to the programme.

We take a look at the top 20 bulls on the ICBF replacement index and how farmers can use these bulls to bring up their indices over the next five years.

Darren Carty profiles the penalties in the programme and how to avoid fines on your SCEP payment.

There has been a huge amount of confusion on whether cows that were eligible in BDGP will be still eligible in SCEP. Chris Daly sets the record straight.

Weighing cows and calves is one of the key requirements in SCEP and Darren Carty outlines how weights can be captured to meet the programme requirements.