The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) will meet representatives from ICBF and the Department of Agriculture to discuss the out workings of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) over the coming weeks.

“I expect that upwards of 30,000 farmers will apply for the scheme with a relatively small number of the view that they might opt out over the coming weeks,” said ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch.

“The tipping point in this regard will be the issuing of the specific herd genomic data sets to each of the applicants by ICBF. Armed with this information farmers will be able to make up their minds as to whether or not they can meet the 2020 breeding targets.”

Punch admitted that the programme’s six-year term, plus the 4-star and 5-star maternal breeding criteria remain the big areas of concern for suckler farmers.

“We recognise that the scheme was introduced as a climate change mitigating measure. This brings with it a programme duration period of between six and seven years.

“But ICSA believes that a degree of flexibility can be introduced by the Department to meet the requirements of those farmers who decide to get out of sucklers at some stage during three next six years.”

But, according to Punch, ICSA will draw a line in the sand when it comes to farmers who genuinely commit to BDGP and subsequently receive clawback penalties.

“We will not stand for these farmers being hung out to dry,” he said.

“The reality is that the new star-based genomics’ rating scheme is by no means an exact science. It has already thrown up a number of bulls with widely fluctuating scores.

“And this will not help suckler farmers achieve the maternal rating scores required under BDGP. It is for this reason that we want to meet ICBF as a matter of priority.”

Eddie Punch said he is not impressed with the Minister for Agriculture’s commitment to review BDGP in three years’ time.

“A review in three months’ time would be more appropriate,” he said.