A decision is expected in the coming weeks on whether the Department of Finance will approve funding for a new company that will gather and analyse ruminant livestock data in NI, and help farmers make better breeding decisions.

Updating members at an Ulster Farmers’ Union meeting in Armagh, chief executive Wesley Aston confirmed that £2.3m per year for five years was set aside for the programme by former Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots.

However, ultimately this spend of public money must be approved by the Department of Finance.

“We are just waiting on funding being given the go-ahead. We understand that is coming fairly soon. We hope to launch in the not too-distant future,” said Aston.

On enquiry, a spokesperson for the Department confirmed that a business case has been submitted.

“Clarification was sought on a number of elements around the business case, which DAERA have responded to. We are currently considering this additional information and will make a decision on whether to approve the proposal in the coming weeks,” the Department of Finance spokesperson said.

The programme will be managed by a new company, Sustainable Ruminant Genetics Ltd, with the initiative chaired by former UFU president Victor Chestnutt.

It is understood that once funding is secured, the next step will be to appoint a chief executive and staff members, as well as putting out a tender for a service provider.

Some of the potential partners discussed include the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Aston also confirmed the funding allows for all cattle in NI to be DNA-tested, which would create an immediate bank of genetic data.

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