A tendering process for the provision of mobile weighing scales under the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s new €20 million Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme is expected to be announced this week.

Under the BEEP scheme – announced as a beef sector support under Budget 2019 – farmers will receive a payment of up to €40/cow for collecting weight data on cows and calves.

The aim of the scheme is to “incentivise” the collection of data that’s not currently available in a significant volume to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) under the Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP).

Speaking to AgriLand at the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association’s (ICMSA’s) annual general meeting in Limerick, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, said scales will be made available to scheme participants at a “modest price”.

We will be tendering for scales and we envisage a network of locations where these will be available to facilitate the maximum number of participants.

“People will have to make their facilities available and that is part of the process that we will be involved in now.

“Some will have their own [scales], some will decide to hire in people that are already in the business – and some will avail of the network of scales that the department will roll out and they will be at a modest price,” he said.

500,000 weanlings

Specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production, the pilot scheme is expected to target the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves – measuring the live weight of the calf at weaning as a percentage of the cow’s live weight.

The scheme will pay on the assumption of 500,000 weanlings participating.

The ambition is that this scheme – which is not confined to just those farmers participating in the BDGP – will be available to applicants in the new year.

Minister Creed highlighted that the ICBF views the scheme as “really critical” in terms of the data it will generate to improve the genetic merit of the herd.

“It was a gap in the database, so they are quite positive about it. It is a question now of making it as user friendly as possible – and as affordable as possible.

The data will be used to target improvements on a herd basis by giving the farmer detailed feedback on the performance of individual animals.

“The announcement is imminent; but this is to get people to tender to provide scales.

“We will then have to work out the logistics of how they are available. We’ll be bringing in the application process in the new year,” the minister concluded.