Colm Markey, MEP for the Midlands-Northwest, has suggested that performance-improving livestock eco-scheme options would be considered for inclusion within the CAP strategic plan.

The European Commission has indicated that eco-scheme options that boost animal and herd performance could be approved in member states’ CAP strategic plans under certain circumstances where there would be environmental benefits, according to Markey.

Markey told the Irish Farmers Journal that milk recording, earlier cattle ages at slaughter and the calving of heifers at two years of age could all potentially be considered as eco-scheme measures under the Department of Agriculture’s draft CAP strategic plan.

“I know we have less eco-schemes than a lot of other countries and perhaps if we could look at adding in some additional eco schemes, as well as looking after the ones that we have, it might be an option,” he said to the Irish Farmers Journal.

Slaughtering earlier [and] calving earlier, ultimately, mean less emissions with the same result

“But certainly, I think there are other eco schemes that we could look at and that would have merit, even ones around, I know one Macra would have pushed one around the management of hedgerows, and I know that’s one that could be [considered].

“But, equally, around the likes of performance-based ones, the like of the milk recording or two-year-old calving or earlier slaughtering or all those that were proposed in the early days.

“There’s a significant win at farm level in terms of efficiency, performance and in terms of [preventing] anti-microbial resistance, milk recording lowering cell counts has to be a positive.

“And slaughtering earlier [and] calving earlier, ultimately, mean less emissions with the same result, if you like, and that equally is very positive,” said Markey.

The Commission’s approval

Markey explained that it had originally been thought that the Commission would not accept proposals which would improve animal productivity.

However, the Midlands-Northwest MEP argued that Brussels had signalled that certain proposals would be considered, on the basis that any benefits to animal performance were delivered in tandem with proposed schemes’ environmental gain.

“One of the things that was said in the early days was that anything that had a gain for the farmer couldn’t be included,” he said.

“Now, I certainly got indications from the Commission that under certain circumstances that is the case, but there are other circumstances, other scenarios, where eco schemes could be funded that would allow for that flexibility.

“There’s a multi-annual nature to some of them that I don’t think the Commission would have a problem with,” said Markey.