INHFA calls for front-loaded beef bovine health plan scheme

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) has called for the introduction of a beef cow/calf health plan to provide support for suckler farmers.

Launching its “10-point plan for the future of suckler beef farming and ensuring food security for EU citizens and consumers” earlier today, Thursday, July 11, the points focused on the key elements it sees in safeguarding the future of suckler farming in Ireland.

One of the 10 points laid out for farmers was the proposal of a beef health plan, aimed to both reduce antibiotic usage in Irish suckler beef; and to improve animal welfare in Irish suckler beef.

The farmer group calls for a front-loaded payment of €200 for the first 10 cows of participant farmers, with a degressive payment on the next 15 cows.

A 20% replacement rate which would facilitate a payment for sustaining replacement heifers on the farm of origin in the second year as these home-bred heifers have built up immune systems – thus reducing antibiotic usage.

Cows entered for the scheme would be reuqired to calve within a 14-15 month time frame, according to the INHFA, while the plan should be an annual scheme where farmers could opt out without penalty.

The organisation recommends a front-loaded payment model to incorporate a number of actions for participant farmers to engage in, including: vaccination of calves prior to weaning to address pneumonia; mineral supplementation of cows or calves; scanning; and faecal egg sampling for calves to ensure management of worm control.

Other proposed actions under such a plan would be: promotion of outdoor calving; vaccination of cows before calving in susceptible herds with a history of viral pneumonia; choosing stock bulls or AI for better maternal traits and reduction in calving difficulty; dehorning and castration in line with animal welfare requirements; and weaning nose pads and/or adjoining stock-proof paddocks to reduce stress pre-weaning.

“With the possibility of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) not commencing until 2022 – or even 2023 – there is the need to get direct support to farmers in the coming year with a view to rolling this into the new CAP whenever it starts,” INHFA president Colm O’Donnell told attendees of the launch today.

“The INHFA is now calling for a nationally funded scheme to be piloted in 2020 and must include suckler farmers not in any of the current schemes.”

According to the INHFA, a first draft of the plan has already been submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for consideration.