Farmers can now apply for the €25m Dairy Beef Welfare Scheme aimed at breeding better quality beef calves from dairy herds, with the scheme to remain open to applications until 15 May.

The four-year CAP scheme will pay dairy farmers €20 for every eligible dairy-beef calf bred up to a maximum of 50 calves/farm.

Calves must have been bred from an AI straw or stock bull genotyped with a minimum 3 stars on the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation’s dairy beef index (DBI) and on the DBI’s beef sub-index.

“Both dairy and beef farmers recognise the gains to be made from the greater integration of the beef and dairy herds that this scheme supports,” Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said when opening the scheme.

“There are advantages for both buyers and sellers in a scheme that provides a market outlet for dairy beef calves and an alternative business option for beef farmers.

“Closer integration will undoubtedly improve the quality, welfare and viability of male calves from dairy herds.”

Dairy-beef plan

The scheme’s opening comes one month after the minister unveiled a 10-point action plan for dairy-calf-to-beef systems which will seek to better integrate the beef and dairy sectors.

“High genetic merit sires will produce calves with high commercial beef values (CBV) which reflect the potential profit of dairy beef animals in terms of enhanced carcase value and earlier slaughter age,” Minister McConalogue continued.

“The CBV thus provides confidence to beef farmers when purchasing dairy beef calves for finishing.”

Both the ICBF and Irish Co-operative Organisation Society marts have committed to ensuring that the benefits of buying high CBV calves is communicated to farmers.

The minister stated that he will continue to support the suckler sector, which he referred to as the “central building block” of the beef industry.

“In addition to the dairy beef scheme, a sum of €20m was allocated in Budget 2024 for the implementation of an exchequer-funded suckler beef scheme to be implemented this year,” he said.

“This will complement the existing €256m Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) which will operate until 2027 and currently has over 17,000 participants.”