The Minister for Agriculture has launched the Beef Data and Genomics Programme which, he says, will be worth up to €52m per annum into the suckler beef sector.

The aim of the scheme is to deliver accelerated genetic improvement in the National herd and improve its environmental and economic sustainability.

Minister Coveney said 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. With a budget of up to €52m per annum, the programme will assist around 35,000 beef farmer and is a major shot in the arm for the suckler sector.”

Participants in the programme will receive a payment of €142.50/ha for the first 6.66 payable hectares under the scheme, and €120/ha after that.

To obtain the payment, they will be required to take tissue samples from certain animals for genotyping, transmit a range of data relating to performance criteria and animal events to ICBF, and complete an on-farm carbon navigator, in order to provide them with the information they need to improve the carbon efficiency and profitability of the herd.

Farmers will also be required to attend a training course to ensure that optimal use is made of their herd data, and to put a breeding and selection policy into practice by bringing high quality replacement bulls and heifers into the herd on a phased basis over the six years of the BDGP contract.

The Minister said Ireland’s beef sector is a major contributor to the economy, exports and employment, particularly in rural areas.

“While the expansion of the dairy herd will have an impact on beef output, our premium beef offering will continue to rely on a high quality suckler herd. This programme harnesses technology in a way that meets a number of the key challenges facing suckler farmers, and positions Ireland as a global leader in the application of genomics in the beef sector.”