Suckler farmers have lost faith in the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) county chairs in Connacht have said.

This is due to the way in which recent changes to beef indexes that impact farmers in the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) were introduced.

The comments were made in a statement released following a specially convened meeting of the Connacht IFA county chairs.

It said: “Suckler farmers have lost faith in ICBF, Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture because of the way the changes have been introduced at the end of the first year of the SCEP scheme.

“There was no mention of any of these changes in their roadshow in March of this year.”

The statement said its purpose was “to protect the suckler cow, because they are the backbone of rural farm families in the west of Ireland”.

Changing goalposts

The statement added that recent changes should be reversed.

“Farmers in SCEP must be allowed to continue on the original terms and conditions they signed up to and not be penalised because of the changing of the goalposts, including their replacement strategy.

“Breeders who have bred animals in this and previous schemes must not have their animals downgraded because of changes to ratings if they satisfied previous targets,” the statement said.

It called for a complete review of future schemes with appropriate lead-in times and input from suckler farmers.

The changes came into effect on 28 November, with Simmental and Belgian Blue breeds hit the hardest.

The statement was signed by Pat Murphy (Connacht IFA chair), Jarlath Walsh (Mayo), Liam Gilligan (Leitrim), Michael O'Dowd (Sligo), Stephen Canavan (Galway) and Patrick Leonard (Roscommon).

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