The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) “may not be perfect” but is showing real progress, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed.

The minister was responding to comments made by Sinn Féin spokesperson for agriculture Martin Kenny, who said that a review of elements of the scheme must take place.

“We need to see whether it is possible for more farmers to get into the scheme and to have its onerous nature addressed,” deputy Kenny said.

“Some of the rules and issues around star ratings mean a lot of farmers have found it very difficult to meet the criteria of the scheme to date. A review of that must take place.”

In response, Minister Creed said: “This is a very important scheme, albeit it may not be perfect.”

Unfortunately, only approximately one in three suckler farmers are in the scheme. Nevertheless, the data from the programme is showing real progress.

In participating herds, calving interval days have been reduced by 20 days. That is a significant efficiency. The number of calves per cow in programme herds has increased also, which is another significant efficiency.

“The number of births per known sire is up 8% and with AI breeding it is up 2%. We have made some concessions recently on terms and conditions for stock bulls so we are tweaking the programme where possible.”

The minister said that the scheme is “driving efficiency”, voicing his regret that more farmers do not participate.

“We will have to look at how to devise a scheme in the next round of CAP which takes into account the weaknesses in the current programme. I am not saying it is perfect but it is delivering efficiency.”

The minister noted that comments have been made stating the quality of stock going through the factories is dropping, acknowledging: “That may well be so.

There is an increase in the volume of non-suckler beef and beef from herds which are not participating in BDGP.

“However, BDGP herds show that significant economic and environmental efficiencies are being delivered.”

The minister concluded by noting that there may be an underspend in the scheme this year, but added that it is not expected to be significant due to new areas of support.