BEEP launch welcomed but ‘won’t be enough’

The launch of the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme, which will promote weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves, has been welcomed by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

Though welcome, the money is just a drop in the ocean compared to the challenges facing the sector, and on its own it won’t be enough, according to ICSA suckler chairman John Halley.

‘Drop in the ocean’

Halley reiterated his call for a further payment for the suckler sector.

“There is also scope for additional payments to assist the sector which are compatible with EU objectives.

“The reality is that an extra €40 is not enough to make a real difference for suckler farmers.

For that reason the ICSA has proposed a payment of €80 per calved heifer in the suckler herd provided that they calve before 30 months.

This, he said, would “incentivise greater efficiency both in terms of economics and in terms of climate change”.

“This can aid suckler farmers who badly need more than the €40 in the BEEP scheme.

“It can easily be sold to the EU as a climate change measure because it reduces the amount of dry heifers walking around a farm that are unproductive.”

Premium for grass-fed beef

However, without a national strategy to market grass-fed suckler beef as a premium niche product, the negative outlook for sucklers will get worse, the suckler chairman warned.

“Suckler beef has to attract a significant premium given that it is used as the backdrop to promoting our beef and given its traditional role in Irish farming.

We also need to see a substantial increase in live export outlets. The Government needs to put much more emphasis on assisting live exports and removing red tape blockages.

Under BEEP, participants in the scheme will measure the live weight of the calf at weaning as a percentage of the cow’s live weight.

Funding of €20 million has been allocated to the scheme which will operate on a pilot basis in 2019, allowing for a payment of up to €40 per calf.

Applications for the scheme will be accepted between February 4 and 22, 2019.