A new €40 suckler cow payment will open from early summer 2019, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has confirmed. The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme was announced on Tuesday as part of the Budget 2019. This and an additional €23m for ANCs are part of the €44m direct aid to farmers towards Brexit resilience.

The BEEP scheme will focus on improving the efficiency of the beef herd by paying farmers to weigh suckler cows and calves when the calves are between 150 and 250 days.

The overall package is €20m, enough to cover 500,000 cows. It is not specific to those in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme. However, Minister Creed said that if it is oversubscribed, selection criteria will apply.

“The objective is to get the most genomically efficient beef herd: the smallest suckler cow that will produce the biggest weanling, have adequate milk supply for that weanling, that will have the lowest carbon footprint, that will be highly fertile and calve every year,” the minister said.

“One area we don’t have sufficient data [on] is weaning efficiency – the relationship between the weight of the weanling at weaning time in relation to the weight of the cow,” Minister Creed said.

This is part of improving the overall sustainability of the agricultural industry, he said.

The IFA welcomed the move as recognition of the income crisis in the sector, but said the level of funding is disappointing. Livestock chair Angus Woods said that Minister Creed must insist all of the €40 per cow goes directly to the farmers.

A Fianna Fáil motion calling for the suckler sector to be made a priority passed through the Dáil earlier this year.

“Under sustained pressure from Fianna Fáil, the minister has been forced into a U-turn and an initial €20m enhanced fund has been provided for,” Fianna Fáil spokesperson on agriculture and food Charlie McConalogue said.

“The campaign towards a €200 suckler cow payment drives on now at full steam and the minister must not put any further roadblocks in its path,” he said.

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Beef Environmental and Efficiency Pilot scheme – what you need to know