BUDGET 2014: Support measures for the Irish beef sector will include a world-class beef genomics database that will result in payments of €40m to suckler farmers in 2014, it has been announced this afternoon.

Speaking after the Budget 2014 outline today, Minister Simon Coveney said: “I am delighted that we are in a position to fund these measures, which together will result in investment of €40m in our beef sector next year.  The suckler herd is the seed bed for a quality beef industry involving more than 100,000 farm families, employing almost 8,000 people in processing, sales and marketing, and driving exports valued at approximately €1.8bn per annum. It is critically important that we position the Irish beef sector to maximise the opportunities arising from global population growth and increasing demand for protein. Harnessing technology in a way that improves efficiency and ultimately profitability at farm level is key, and I am convinced that the combination of measures announced today can make a major contribution.”

The key element comprises €23m for a new Beef Genomics Scheme. Payments of €5m for the continuation of the Beef Technology Adoption Programme, €10m from unspent Single Farm Payment Funds for the Beef Data Programme and €2m under the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme will bring total payments direct to suckler farmers to €40m  in 2014.

Referring to the continuation of the Beef Technology Adoption Programme (BTAP) with a funding allocation of €5m, the minister said “this funding will build on the outstanding success of the previous two years of the BTAP programme to allow its continuation for a third year.”

The programme provides a forum for farmers to share information, develop business plans and improve the productivity of their farms under the guidance of public and private sector facilitators. Almost 5,500 farmers received an annual payment of €925 each under the 2012 programme.

Some €10m will also be paid for the Beef Data Programme in 2014. In 2013 approximately 34,000 farmers applied for the programme, which assists farmers in improving the genetic quality of their livestock, while maintaining a flow of crucial data to Irish Cattle Breeding Federation that will generate further advances in cattle breeding at national level.

Referring to the new Beef Genomics Scheme, Minister Coveney commented: “I have been able to obtain some €23m in exchequer funding for the Beef Genomics Scheme. This will provide suckler farmers with a payment of €40 per calf in return for which the farmer will be required to take samples from stock bulls and a selection of suckler cows for genotyping. This will help to accelerate the kind of genetic improvement that will drive efficiency and increase profitability at farm level. Together with the Beef Data Programme, this will provide for payments of up to €60 per calf in the suckler herd.”

How the scheme will work?

At a press briefing, Minister Coveney outlined how the scheme will work for farmers across Ireland.

  • Farmers will pay €30 for a ‘DNA’ kit and they will be required to take samples from 15 per cent of the herd.
  • The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation will indicate what exact samples are needed and famers will be required to give samples once a year.
  • The equivalent of payment is worth €60 per calf of some 32,000 herds covering up to 550,000 suckler calves.  
  • Applications will open in February.

Concluding, the minister said: “This initiative will help to place Ireland firmly to the forefront globally in beef genetics, enhance our reputation as a world leader in sustainable food production, increase the carbon efficiency of the sector and from a marketing perspective, help to reinforce the uniqueness of our offering on EU and world markets. The collection of this vital genetic information can also provide a building block for the development of a genetic traceability system which would be a global first, placing Ireland firmly in first place globally when it comes to consumer assurance and traceability. The transfer of  knowledge and best practice to beef farmers through the Beef Technology Adoption Programme and the collection through the Beef Data Programme of animal events data that will link to the genetic data gathered through the Beef Genomics Scheme, are key examples of the smart green growth initiatives proposed  in the Food Harvest 2020 Strategy.”

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