Suckler support scheme for weighing calves open for applications
The BEEP scheme opens for applications today and farmers have until 22 February to apply for the €40 payment available per suckler calf.

The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme, which offers farmers a €40 payment per calf for weighing suckler calves and their dams, opened today for applications.

In Budget 2019, the Government made €20m in Exchequer funding available to the one-year pilot to incentivise farmers to weigh suckler cows and calves.

The stated intention of the scheme is to “further increase economic and environmental efficiency in the suckler herd through better quality data on herd performance, supporting decision making on farm”.

Applications

Farmers have until 22 February to apply for the scheme. The current available funding allows for payments across 500,000 beef-bred calves.

In the event the scheme is oversubscribed, payments could be reduced.

For a calf to be eligible for payment, it must be born between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2019.

The calf’s dam and sire must also be a beef breed.

Farmers are required to weigh both the cow and the unweaned calf on the same day and submit the weights to the ICBF within seven days.

These weights will be used to calculate a weaning efficiency figure.

Weights can be submitted from 8 March until 1 November, with payments scheduled for December 2019.

Mixed reaction

The pilot scheme has received mixed reaction.

The IFA encouraged suckler farmers to apply for the scheme and to draw down the payment.

IFA livestock chair Angus Woods said the €40 payment was not sufficient and that the IFA would continue to campaign for targeted payments up to €200 per cow for sucklers.

ICSA suckler chair John Halley welcomed the scheme, but said the money on offer would not be enough to save sucklers.

He called for an €80 payment per calved heifer in the suckler herd, provided that they calve before 30 months.

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Focus on beef sector challenges and prospects at Galway event
A beef-focused event on Friday, organised for farmers in the west, will focus on the current state of the beef industry and what the future might hold.

The current situation in the beef industry situation and what the future holds for beef farmers will be discussed at the event in Glenamaddy, Co Galway.

Councillor Peter Keaveney is holding a beef information event for farmers in the Galway, Mayo and Roscommon regions on Friday 15 February.

The event is set to take place in Glenamaddy Community Centre and will begin at 8pm sharp.

Several industry specialists are lined up to speak at the event, including Darren Carty, livestock specialist with the Irish Farmers Journal, CAP and Brexit correspondent Phelim O’Neill from the Irish Farmers Journal and Teagasc adviser Gabriel Trayers.

According to Cllr Keaveney, the event will aim to address the current uncertainty beef farmers are facing, to inform farmers on where the beef industry currently stands and to look at the future of the industry.

Speaking ahead of the event, Cllr Keaveney said: “I wanted to organise an event that would bring the beef farmer up to date with what our industry is facing, inform farmers on where our main markets are, the possible effects Brexit may have on us here in the west of Ireland, what the reform of the new CAP may look like, and finally the alternatives to the suckler cow, with a focus on contract rearing and calf to beef.”

The event is free and all are welcome on the night.

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Farmers lobby TDs on beef price crisis
Representatives from 26 counties gathered in Dublin to lobby politicians at an event organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association.

The struggle for finishers to get bulls slaughtered was to the fore of issues raised by beef farmers protesting outside Dáil Éireann on Wednesday.

Representatives from 26 counties gathered to lobby politicians at an event organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Laois IFA chair Francis Gorman said farmers were receiving prices as low as €3.30/kg for bulls and that finishers were at breaking point.

Pat Deering, chair of the Oireactas agricultural committee said its members will undertake an analysis of the future of the beef industry, given the ongoing crisis.

Sucklers

The importance of the suckler herd was highlighted to Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry by IFA representatives from western counties.

JP Cowley, Sligo IFA chair, said that without the suckler herd the west of Ireland would experience mass abandonment.

Crowley also said the decline of the suckler herd should be a concern, not just for the farmers, but also the wider rural community.

Brexit

Brexit was also to the fore, as the UK’s date of departure from the EU draws closer.

The IFA called on Government to deliver a post-Brexit aid package similar to one Baltic countries received following the Russian import ban.

In a conversation between farmers James Bennett and Richard Scally and Fine Gael’s Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, it was highlighted that current beef intervention is ineffective as it requires prices to fall to €2.20/kg.

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Suckler cow conference taking place in Mayo
Conor Sampson spoke to John Noonan ahead of Teagasc's suckler cow conference, taking place at the Breaffy House hotel on 12 February at 7pm.

Teagasc is set to host a spring suckler cow conference tomorrow in Castlebar, Co Mayo.

The KT-approved (Knowledge Transfer) beef event is running from 7pm until to 9pm at the Breaffy House Hotel.

Grass utilisation, the BEEP scheme and beef market prospects will be covered at the event.

Among the speakers is John Noonan, Teagasc's business and technology adviser in Mayo. Ahead of the event, Noonan told the Irish Farmers Journal that farmers must “look at ways of making their enterprises more profitable by reducing costs”.

Noonan will be informing farmers at the event about how they can improve grass utilisation through soil fertility management, early turnout dates for stock and the use of paddock systems. He believes these strategies are under-used and could boost productivity on many suckler farms.

The use of Body Condition Scoring (BCS) as a management tool will be covered at the event by UCDs Alan Kelly. He will discuss feeding suckler cows, pre- and post-calving, and the savings which can be made by managing a cow’s BCS over the winter months.

Chris Daly, ICBF, will also be speaking at the event. Daly will outline the details of the new BEEP scheme and why suckler farmers should consider joining it. He will also give an update on ICBF programmes, including star ratings and an outline of new dates for evaluation runs.

Current market prospects for beef will be highlighted by Paul Nolan of Dawn Meats. He will discuss where beef markets are now, where they will be going forward and the market specifications involved.

According to John Noonan, the take-home message from the event is that suckler farmers must remain resilient: “It’s a huge decision to decide to get out of suckler farming. I would encourage all suckler farmers to stick with it.”