Farmers from Clare and Galway packed into Ennis on Tuesday night to hear the latest details on the recently launched Suckler cow scheme. Questions on understanding the reference number of cows, issues with the Bord Bia quality assurance scheme, and changes to star ratings dominated question time. Some farmers also expressed disappointment around the timing and penalties associated with the scheme for failing to adhere to rules.

Department officials worked hard to answer specific queries for over an hour as farmers start to understand what is involved in the new Suckler cow scheme. Essentially this SCEP scheme is the follow up scheme to BDGP. In addition the BEEP suckler cow €28m scheme will be launched in the next couple of weeks.


There is €256m of funding available over five years in the SCEP scheme. Some 20,000 suckler farmers are expected to apply. In principle farmers are expected to genotype (DNA test) animals, use high-star rating bulls, and weigh cows and calves. They will also have to take part in a training course, complete the Bord Bia quality assurance (SBLAS), and calve 50% of the eligible cows in any one year.

A number of questions centred on the fact that star ratings of bulls can change post purchase and this leaves the farmer vulnerable to hitting specific targets for the number of replacements with high stars. ICBF specialist Niall Kilraine emphasised that farmers should only try and purchase bulls that have a genotype and always aim for the high-star rating bull to give some wriggle room to star rating dropping down which can happen.

Helping farmers

Over 300 farmers packed into the West County Hotel in Ennis on Tuesday night to hear the latest details on the recently announced Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP). The Ennis meeting is the latest in a series of national meetings taking place around the country.

Speakers on the night included David Buckley, Peter Harte and Sharon O’Connor from the Department of Agriculture, Niall Kilraine from the ICBF, and Emmet Doyle from Bord Bia. Department officials also manned helpdesks on the night helping farmers understand the key requirements.

We will host a Farm Tech Talk special on the SCEP suckler scheme later in the week that will be available on Friday night. If you have a question on SCEP that you would like answered email it to and we will answer it on the night

Questions and answers

Q: TB has ruined cow numbers on me for the last number of years so my average will be much lower than what it should be – what can I do?

A: “It’s for this type of reason we went with an average of three years out of six. Yes some farmers will still be impacted badly and we can review and come up with something but we can’t pay to expand herd.” – Peter Harte, Department

Q: I’m a summer calver (May to July) and this scheme ends in June so am I being penalised for summer calving? Can participant pick a timeframe to suit the farm?

A: “Scheme is designed for spring calving herds and I suppose always someone caught but that is the way it is – can’t change Terms and Conditions now.” - Peter Harte, Department

Q: If I want to transfer to my son or daughter mid way through scheme – what happens?

A: “That’s possible once new entrant signs a declaration of undertaking to stay within the Terms and conditions.” – Sharon O’Connor, Department

Q: Why can’t we get tissue tags (for genotyping) earlier in year?

A: “It will be summer this year, but in year 2, 3, 4, and 5 we hope to get them out in February and March.” – Niall Kilraine, ICBF

Q: Who will do the training and if it is Teagasc, do you have to be a Teagasc member?

A: “Haven’t decided or allocated who is doing training yet – no won’t have to be a Teagasc member.” – Peter Harte, Department

Q: Will the terms of the Bord Bia change over the course of the five years?

A: “No major changes expected, but over five years there might be some slight changes but nothing major.” – Emmet Doyle, Bord Bia

Q: Are numbers rounded up or down for specific targets?

A: “All are rounded down so if you have 21 cows and need 50% calved then you need to have 10 calved.” – Sharon O’Connor, Department

Q: Can the eligible forage area include beneficial features?

A: “Yes eligible area off the BISS application and can include beneficial features.” – Sharon O’Connor, Department

Q: What about new entrants – will there be a SCEP entry next year?

A: “Don’t know if there will be ‘SCEP 2’ depends on funding take up, but if eligible for this year I’d advise get in this year.” – David Buckley, Department

Q: Is it paid on cows numbers or land area?

A: “On land therefore reference number divided by 1.5 to get the payable area.” – Sharon O’Connor, Department