Department budget of €1.15m for rented cattle weighing scales
The Department of Agriculture has budgeted €1.15m for the funding of weighing equipment as part of the BEEP scheme.

The Department of Agriculture has set aside €1,150,000 to acquire weighing scales which farmers can rent to weigh suckler cows and calves under the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme that opened for applications on 4 February.

The scheme requires farmers to weigh suckler cows and unweaned calves to determine weaning efficiency.

Farmers who own their own scales can use it to weigh their animals

A payment of €40 is available for every calf weighed.

As part of the pilot, a rental scheme will be rolled out across the country to provide access to scales for farmers who do not have their own set.

Farmers who own their own scales can use it to weigh their animals, but it must be pre-registered with the ICBF beforehand.

A website to register scales will be made available by the ICBF in early March.

400 scales

It is estimated that 400 scales will be required for the rental scheme, with provisions for an additional 100 scales if there is high demand.

These scales will be distributed to locations nationwide and available for rent for a fee, envisaged to be less than €50/day.

Details on when and where these scales will be available for rental has yet to be published, but the Department has said they will be available before 8 March when farmers can begin submitting weights.


It is also understood that scales will be available from central locations such as marts or co-ops.

The €1.15m for the scales was included as part of the Department’s capital allocations under the programme for farm supports and controls, which has a total budget of €159m for 2019.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed detailed the components of the programme in response to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen.

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Factories chomping at the bit for China
While some have raised concerns that China will not be a major market for beef, factories have said they need more plants approved in order to meet demand.

Factories are seeking approval for 11 more plants to export beef to China, saying they cannot meet demand otherwise.

Just over 1,200t of frozen boneless Irish beef has been shipped to China.

However, factories have told the Department of Agriculture that their concern is not a lack of demand, but rather a lack of capacity to meet the volume of contracts. There are currently 11 Irish plants approved by China for exports, including five beef plants.

'No magic solutions' for beef crisis - Department
Department officials were pressed for answers on low beef prices, issues around lairage capacity and supports for farmers post-Breixt.

Department of Agriculture officials have said there are “no magic solutions” to the beef crisis and were accused of failing to grasp the crisis in the sector on Tuesday.

Department officials were called before the Oireachtas agriculture committee to give their view on the future of the beef sector. Assistant general secretary Sinéad McPhillips said preparations had begun for the strategy to replace Food Wise 2025, which envisages an 85% increase in agri-food exports from €13bn to €19bn.

Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae called for an inquiry into beef prices, saying farmers were in a critical state. He called on the Department to explain what had gone wrong.

McPhillips said the Department had no role in setting prices.

She said there was no one solution and referred to efforts to facilitate producer groups, open new markets, and provide targeted supports.

Fianna Fáil’s Jackie Cahill expressed frustration with a statement that live exports would remain a focus in 2019. He said no cattle over 12 months were being exported and lairage capacity was not in place for calf exports this spring. McPhillips said lairage was an issue for exporters, not the Department, whose focus was on welfare standards.

Sinn Féin senator Rose Conway-Walsh asked what supports would be in place in the event of a hard Brexit.

McPhillips said the Department was pursuing exceptional aid from the EU. This was last used in 2015, following a ban by Russia on EU exports. It took four months to kick in.

While she said “deployment would be urgent” if the worst case transpired, no concrete timeline was provided on when that might be.

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Watch: Beef Plan Movement protest over exclusion from TB forum
Despite a meeting with Department officials last week, a request by the Beef Plan Movement to have representation at the TB stakeholder forum has been denied.

The Beef Plan Movement held a protest outside a TB stakeholder forum meeting that was held at the Department of Agriculture’s Backweston Campus on Wednesday.

Stakeholders met with the Department as part of ongoing consultations around plans to eradicate TB by 2030. However, Beef Plan Movement representatives were protesting outside the gates from 1.30pm.

A spokesperson for the Beef Plan Movement told the Irish Farmers Journal that following a meeting with Department officials last week, the group had hoped to have representatives in the meeting.


However, in an email received on Tuesday evening, its request to attend the meeting was denied by the Department. Instead, the Beef Plan Movement’s addition to the forum will be discussed by existing representatives at the meeting.

Beef Plan Movement chair Eamonn Corley said the decision was a slap in the face to the group, which he claims now represents 17,000 beef farmers. He said the group was entitled to be there given the backing it had received from farmers.

Corley said the Department should be “big enough to decide itself” and it should not be up to the other parties involved.


He said that at last week’s meeting with officials, the Beef Plan Movement had outlined its policy on the direction TB eradication should take based on 10 points from the group’s original 86-point plan.

Corley added the Beef Plan was “completely against” two new proposals being considered. These are the inclusion of a farmers TB history on mart boards and a 30-day pre-movement TB test.

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