Forty-four per cent of suckler farmers who took part in an Irish Farmers Journal survey are worried about meeting the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) targets in years four and five of the scheme on the back of changes to the beef indexes.

The survey of over 200 farmers also found that 67% of those surveyed would like to see changes made to the SCEP targets as a result of the new indexes.

The changes introduced by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) at the end of November have caused much frustration in suckler circles, with many farmers critical of the way the indexes are made up and also the direction in which suckler breeding is heading in the country.

Of the farmers who responded to the survey, 72% were participants in SCEP. The largest proportion of farmers (38%) who responded to the survey were suckler-to-weanling producers.

The Irish Farmers Journal asked farmers if their suckler herd’s average herd replacement index value went up or down as a result of the changes introduced.

Some 20% of farmers said their herd index went up, 50% said their herd index went down while 30% said their herd index stayed the same.


A total of 75% of farmers surveyed rated the Department of Agriculture’s communication on the proposed changes as poor or very poor.

Worryingly, 75% of farmers surveyed said that they have less confidence in ICBF indexes as a tool to select breeding animals on their farm as a result of the changes.

Some 61% of farmers surveyed did not agree with the current direction of suckler breeding in relation to earlier finishing age, less feed intake, stabilising the size of cows and easier calving.

Finally, 77% of farmers felt that their farm organisation was not informed well enough on the changes introduced in November. There has been a lot of confusion around how the changes have affected herd indexes on farms. ICBF has maintained that the changes have had minimal effect on indexes at farm level.