Questioned recently on his plans to halt the slide in the numbers of suckler cows in Ireland Minster for Agriculture Food and Marine Simon Coveney stressed that he is fully aware of the issues facing beef producers at present.

He said: Challenging production conditions over the last two years undoubtedly impacted on the size of the beef cow herd and this may result in a diminution in overall suckler cow numbers.

He noted also that calf registrations are subject to cyclical fluctuations as a contracting suckler herd causes an upturn in confidence, carcass values and margins encouraging renewed investment and restocking by producers.

On his commitment to the sector Coveney higlighted: “I recently announced a package of Budget measures designed to assist in improving the long-term profitability of a vulnerable sector that is particularly reliant on direct payments.”

“In particular, the Beef Genomics Scheme (BGS), which is specifically aimed at suckler farmers, will initiate the process of building a genetic database for the beef sector that will position Ireland as a global leader in beef genetics and ultimately lead to a more efficient and profitable farm sector.”

The Minister noted that: “With a total fund of €23 million, the BGS will provide participants with a payment of €40 per calf subject to an overall scheme limit. I have already indicated that in order to be eligible for entry into the BGS, a farmer must also join the Beef Data Programme (BDP) and I expect to announce full operational details of the new scheme early in 2014.”

In addition to the BGS the Minister noted that: “A further €10 million in funding will be disbursed under the Beef Data Programme (BDP) in 2014. The objectives of the BDP are to improve the genetic quality of the national suckler herd through the collection of essential breeding and production information and to stimulate improvements in the competitiveness and output quality of the Irish beef industry.”

Finally the Minister outlined that In addition to the BGS and the BDP, a further allocation of €5 million has been earmarked for the continuation of the Beef Technology Adoption Programme (BTAP) in 2014.