The reopening of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) has been welcomed by farming organisations.

To date 24,500 suckler farmers with 530,000 cows in the current scheme and have received over €90m in payments.

More than 24,000 farmers were paid €44m in 2015, and a further €39m was paid out under the 2016 scheme late last year to almost 21,000 farmers.

It was announced on this week that the scheme is to reopen and there is potential to get at least another 5,000 farmers into the scheme.

IFA national livestock chair Angus Woods said that BDGP is a very important support for the Irish suckler cow herd and that the Department of Agriculture should adopt a more flexible approach on the commitments producers have to make over the duration of their participation in the BDGP. He said this is particularly important in the context of the uncertainty around Brexit and beef.

Support needed for suckler farmers

Incomes on suckler farms are extremely low and it is vitally important that targeted direct payments are increased to tackle this severe income problem, he added.

“IFA is very strong in its view that the important suckler sector must be strongly supported and prioritised for increased targeted direct supports of up to €200 per cow.”

Meanwhile, ICSA suckler chair John Halley also welcomed the reopening of the BDGP scheme.

Halley said: “It will give those farmers currently not benefitting from the scheme an opportunity to do so. It is crucial that we see all the funds allocated for the scheme going to suckler farmers.

“The move will also increase the gene pool with which ICBF have to work. However, the six-year barrier will continue to be a barrier for some.”

A study for IFA by former UCD Professor of Agricultural Economics Alan Renwick shows that each €1 of support invested in the beef sector, underpins over €4 in output in the Irish economy. At local level, the study showed that the cattle sector is embedded in the local economy, with 80% of cattle output sold in the area and over 90% of inputs sourced in the local area.