The Department of Agriculture has supplied AgriLand with details on how the Beef Genomics Scheme (BGS), announced earlier this week in the context of the Government’s budgetary measures for 2014, will work.

The aim of the initiative is to provide a support measure for the suckler beef sector and to assist in the application of genomic technology to Ireland’s beef herd. Genomics is already successfully delivering genetic improvement and profitability on the dairy side. The scheme will complement other measures such as the Beef Data Programme and the Beef Technology Adoption Programme, which are designed to harness technology to improve efficiency and ultimately profitability on suckler farms.

The scheme will have a budget of €23m. When added to the €10m to be paid out under the Beef Data Programme in 2014, the €5m available under the Beef Technology Adoption Programme and €2m in payments under the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, this will mean payments of €40m directly to farmers in the suckler cow sector in 2014.

The budget available will be sufficient to cover payment for estimate of 550,000 calves. This figure is based on previous experience on the average take-up from similar schemes such as the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme and the current Beef Data Programme, which has 32,000 participants.

According to the Department of Agriculture, any farmer with suckler cows – who is also a participant in the Beef Data Programme can apply. The Beef Data Programme will be open to new participants in 2014.

Eligible farmers will receive €40 per calf, subject to the overall Beef Genomics Scheme limit. When added to the €20 per calf provided under the beef data programme (first 20 calves only), that will mean up to €60 per calf.

Applicant farmers will be required to genotype 15 per cent of his cows by submitting samples to Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF). Farmers who own a stock bull will also have to have it genotyped. The farmer will pay ICBF for the collection kit required for the animals selected for  genotyping and for the cost of genotyping (estimated at €30 per animal genotyped).  Farmers with BVD Permanently Infected calves will have to commit to disposing of those calves.

The ICBF’s role is to: select cows from each suckler herd for genotyping;  send a kit for collection of each sample to the farmer for return to ICBF; have the samples genotyped and the results entered in a database. In addition, ICBF will  forward genomic information in due course on each animal sampled to the farmer.

It is hoped to open the scheme to applicants in early 2014. There are a number of operational issues to be finalised and full operational details will be available from the department when available.

Limousin suckler herd. Photo O’Gorman Photography.