Policy officials in the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) have clarified the criteria that will apply to a proposed new suckler cow headage payment coming in as part of a new support package likely to be implemented from 2024.

Responding to an article in the 22 January edition of the Irish Farmers Journal, DAERA deputy secretary Norman Fulton told an online event on Thursday night that our analysis was “misleading” and “deeply flawed”.

That analysis was based on the wording of the DAERA consultation document which suggests that to qualify for a payment, a suckler animal will have to meet two conditions around age at first calving and calving interval.

However, it turns out that these two conditions will be assessed separately.

So a heifer at first calving might not meet the criteria in the first year (because she calved at over 30 months), but can still meet the requirements in future years if calving interval (CI) is within target.

Maximum calving interval

In the first year of the scheme, it is proposed that the maximum CI for each individual cow to receive the payment is 400 days, moving to 370 days by year four.

Heifers must calve at under 30 months in year one, and under 27 months by year four.

While the clarification from DAERA means that significantly more suckler animals on NI farms will be eligible than the 22% as suggested in our article, it still remains the case that unless farmers change their practices, up to half of cows on farms will not get the payment.

It also remains the case that the 370-day CI target by year four is non-sensical, and would mean that a significant number of cows, even on farms with excellent fertility, would miss out on the payment.

Read more

DAERA defends headage payment criteria

UFU keen to set direction of travel for payments