An €80m plan to genotype the national herd will need the green light and funding from Brussels.

The five-year programme aims to genotype 800,000 cows and in-calf heifers in 2023, with this element of the initiative being financed through the EU’s Brexit Adjustment Reserve fund (BAR).

Calves from these cows will then be genotyped in each of the subsequent years.

The programme is expected to kick off in the next two months if funding is secured, with the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) driving operations.

Insiders stressed that BAR funding approval from Brussels had not yet been secured, although there were positive soundings from a stakeholder meeting last week – which included representatives from the Department of Agriculture, ICBF, the farm organisations, the meat and dairy processors and ICOS.

However, a decision on the programme is imminent.

It is envisaged that BAR funding of around €20m will cover the cost of the first year of the initiative.

The costs for the remaining four years of the programme will be covered equally by the Department, farmers and meat and dairy processors.

Split expenses

It is envisaged that the three-way split of the costs will result in each of the parties contributing around €5m/year to the programme. It is expected that the cost to the farmer might be in the order of €4-6 per calf next spring.

Given that close to 500,000 cows have already been genotyped (400,000 sucklers and 100,000 dairy), the genotyping of a further 800,000 breeding females this year will result in DNA data being available for a significant proportion of the country’s 2.5m dairy and suckler cows.

Although membership of the scheme is voluntary, farmers who sign up will have to commit to genotyping their entire herd.

The potential advantages to both the dairy and suckler sector in terms of improving efficiencies and environmental ambitions will be significant.

Following last week’s meeting, ICSA suckler chair Jimmy Cosgrave described the proposed initiative as a “a hugely important step”.

Cosgrave called for an ambitious vision to marry all the benefits of the genotyping programme in the marketing of Irish beef.

“In particular we could very quickly use this in our suckler premium brand to deliver DNA verified suckler beef,” Cosgrave said.

Other parties from last week’s discussions confirmed that they were “well disposed” to the concept, but they maintained that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and the funding is in place”.