The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is an agricultural scheme launched by the Department of Agriculture in May 2015.

The scheme, which will run until 2020, is designed to improve the genetic merit of the suckler herds and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the Irish beef herd.

Under the scheme, which was approved by the European Commission, eligible farmers will receive funding to carry out this work.

What is the Beef Data and Genomics Programme?

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is an Irish agricultural scheme which was approved by the European Commission as part of Ireland’s 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme.

The BDGP was launched on May 5, 2015 and the closing date for applications was June 5, 2015. Some 29,000 farmers applied for the scheme, which will run for six years.

The then Minster for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, said at its launch that it was a major ‘shot in the arm’ for the suckler herd.

“Improving the genetics of the national herd will enhance its carbon efficiency, and will also deliver significant economic benefits to farmers over time. The benefits of genetic gain are cumulative and permanent.”

The BDGP builds on previous investment in suckler farming through schemes such as the nationally funded beef data programme and the beef genomics scheme.

This scheme was approved by the EU Commission as part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme on the basis of climate change benefits while at the same time improving the genetic merit of the national beef herd.

The main objective of the scheme is to encourage the introduction of animals of a higher genetic merit into the national beef herd. By improving the quality and efficiency of the suckler herd it will reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of beef production in Ireland by improving production efficiency on suckler farms.

The scheme works on the principle that increasing the genetic merit of the suckler herd through the €urostars programme, which is run by the Irish Cattle and Breeding Federation (ICBF) will result in more calves/cow/year and less greenhouse gases per livestock unit.

As part of the scheme, the genetic merit of the national beef herd will be assessed through the collection of data and genotypes of selected animals which will allow for the application of genomic selection in the beef herd.

cow and calf

What do farmers get?

Overall, the Beef Data and Genomics Programme is worth €52m per annum to Irish farmers, or over €300m to farmers for the six years.

Payments will be made through the scheme at  rate of €142.50 for each of the first 6.66ha of eligible forage land and €120 on the remaining eligible hectares.

The eligible hectares a farmer can claim are equal to the number of calved cows on the farm in 2014 (known as reference animals), divided by the stocking rate of 1.4 and up to the limit of declared forage land deemed eligible on the Single Payment scheme application.

A maximum payable area has been determined by the Department of Agriculture, by dividing the number of calved suckler cows in 2014 by 1.5 livestock units (LU).

This means, for example, that a farmer who had 30ha of forage area and calved 30 cows in 2014. When you divide the 30 cows by 1.5, you need 20ha as your MPA. The programme requires that you maintain at least 80% of the MPA. So in the example you would need at least 16ha (20ha x 0.8).

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme works off 2014 as a reference year and payments to farmers will be determined by the number of calved cows in 2014 (the number of reference animals).

Further, the number of forage hectares declared on 2014 Single Payment Scheme will establish eligible forage area.

Then, payment will be made on the Maximum Payable Area (MPA) = Number of reference cows divided by a S/D of 1.5.

This works out that farmers will receive a payment equivalent to €95 for the first 10 cows in the herd, and €80 for each remaining cows.

Payments will be in December each year.

nice suckler calves

Who is eligible for the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme?

While the Beef Data and Genomics Programme is now closed, to be eligible one had to:

  • Be aged 18 years old or over at the time of application submission.
  • Be the holder of an active herd number and have Herd Owner Status, or have applied for a herd number.
  • They had to have submitted a 2014 Single Payment Scheme application with all land parcels declared.
  • Have submitted a Basic Payment Scheme application on a yearly basis and on which all land parcels are declared.
  • Have beef breed cattle born in the herd between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2020.

Further criteria must also be met, in relation to Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD):

  • All animals must be tested for BVD within 20 days of birth and have samples returned.
  • Applicants cannot apply if they have persistently infected (PI) Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) animals born since January 1, 2012 which have not been removed from the herd by the closing date for receipt of applications for the BDGP.

Payment rates

Farmers are to receive €142.50 for each of the first 6.66ha of eligible land and €120 for the remaining eligible hectares.

Eligible hectares will be equal to the number of calved cows in 2014 (known as reference animals) divided by a stocking rate of 1.5.

Terms and Conditions of the Scheme

Farmers who partake in the scheme must comply with the following:

  • They must register all new born calves within 27 days of birth and provide the sire number and complete a survey around calving ease.
  • The must also complete a survey around the animals in the herd.
  • Farmers must also genotype 60% of all the animals in their herd.
  • They must have a stock bull on the farm by June 30, 2019 that has a genotyped 4 or 5 star rating on the Terminal or Replacement index and this bull must be kept until June 30, 2020.
  • The Irish Cattle Breeders Federation (ICBF) will administer this scheme on behalf of the Department of Agriculture.

Key Actions for Farmers

During the six years of the scheme, there are six key actions that farmers must undertake as part of the conditions of the scheme.

1. Farmers must tag and register all calves within 27 days of birth and provide sire details.

2. They must complete surveys, which include calf quality, incidence of scour and pneumonia. Further, cow surveys include milking ability, while docility and culling reasons are surveyed for cows and bulls.

3. Genotyping – ICBF selects the animals for genotyping equivalent to 60% of the 2014 reference animals. This means a farmer with 15 eligible calved animals in 2014 must be able to genotype at least nine cows, heifers, calves or stock bulls annually.

4. Replacement strategy. Farmers who keep a stock bull must have by 2019, a stock bull which was genotyped a 4 or 5 star bull on either the terminal or replacement.

Farmers using AI will be expected to select 80% 4 or 5 star bulls from June 30, 2016.

5. Farmers must complete a Carbon Navigator by 2016, which is an online farm management package. It measures environmental gains that can be made on farm by setting targets in key areas.

6. Farmers must complete training by the end of October 2016.

How to apply for the scheme

Applications have now closed for the Beef Data and Genomics Programme, but farmers were obliged to complete an application form and return it to the Department of Agriculture.


Farmers in the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme are subject to inspection. Inspections will be carried out on at least 5% of beneficiaries. Notice of these inspection may be up to 14 days.


Failure to stay in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme for the six years or complete all the requirements may result in all or part of the monies paid being recouped by the Department of Agriculture.

In all cases the Department reserves the right to review files to establish whether or not a breach of the Programme conditions has occurred which may lead to a sanction or the termination of the contract and reimbursement of all aid.

Penalties related to the penalties associated with the Programme requirements including record keeping, genomic testing, replacement of animals, carbon navigator and training. Penalties associated with breaches of individual requirements will be based on the proportion that requirement comprises of the total payment as follows:

BDGP penalties

Pic: Department of Agriculture

Pic: Department of Agriculture

Pic: Department of Agriculture

Pic: Department of Agriculture

Cross Compliance

Any breach of cross-compliance noted during an on-farm inspection will be cross-reported to the Beef Data and Genomics Unit of the Department and will apply to that Programme.

The levels of cross compliance penalties for the Beef Data and Genomics Programme are as follows:

  • If an applicant is found to be in breach of cross-compliance through negligence a penalty of 3% will normally apply but this can be reduced to 1% or increased to 5% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the non-compliance. If ‘repetition’ applies the penalty will be multiplied by 3 to a limit of 15%.
  • Where the non-compliance is deemed to be minor in nature tolerance may be applied with the applicant advised to remedy the problem. Where not remedied within a certain period a 1% penalty applies.
  • Where the non-compliance is deemed intentional the reduction shall normally be 20% but this may be reduced to 15% or increased to 100% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the non-compliance found. The penalty may also be extended outside the year of finding.

While every effort is taken to ensure this information is up to date, it should be noted that schemes and their terms and conditions are subject to change and the administrating authority should be contacted for the full terms and conditions.