Farmers participating in the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) are concerned about the impact beef index changes will have on their herd’s standing in the scheme, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA).

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher claimed that “drastic changes” to beef indices brought in by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) is leaving farmers participating in SCEP unable to breed export-quality weanlings.

Kelleher stated that the changes could be a factor that pressures farmers out of the scheme, which provides much-needed income to suckler farmers.

“Many of our members have grave concerns about their future in the SCEP scheme and these concerns will have to be addressed,” he said.

'Considerable ramifications'

“The changes are proving to have considerable ramifications for farmers participating in the SCEP scheme and indeed for the future of the suckler sector as a whole.

“The majority of suckler farmers want to breed a good stylish calf that will sell well in the mart or is fit to export.

“The problem now is that any AI sire that will do just that has been hammered and therefore deemed unsuitable for use in the SCEP scheme.”

ICBF changes will seek to guide farmers into breeding easier-calving herds, but the ICSA maintains that the weighting behind ease of calving is too heavy.

“In particular, the penalising of bulls that may be a couple of percentage above average for calving for the breed will hit the majority of suckler farmers,” Kelleher commented.

“We need a practical, common-sense approach to calving difficulty in the context of suckler farming where quality of calf is everything.”

The new SCEP-friendly bull rankings “will not produce an animal fit for shipping or for any show and sale in any mart for weanlings or fatstock sales,” he said.

The ICSA president recognised that ICBF data is “invaluable” to suckler farmers, but argued that calving interval, feed conversion rates and beef output should be the indicators used to drive efficiency, rather than calving ease.