Farmers will have to pay vets in the region of €150 in order to meet the animal health requirements built into the new discussion group measures.

To qualify for the €750 knowledge transfer payment, farmers must attend at least four knowledge exchange meetings and carry out a carbon navigator/sustainability management plan; a breeding plan and a herd health plan.

However, a number of vets have confirmed to Agriland that the herd health plan – which must be carried out annually – will cost farmers in the region of €150-175.

Veterinary Ireland has said it has issues with the funding breakdown and said a specific pool of money should have been made available to pay vets under the new RDP measures.

Conor Geraghty, Chairman of the Cattle Association of Veterinary Ireland, said while Veterinary Ireland is fully endorsing the beef and dairy discussion group format contained within the new scheme, there are issues around the funding breakdown.

“We do have issues with the funding breakdown. Under the current proposals there is a pot of money available to consultants and advisors, who will act as group co-ordinators. And, obviously farmers have their own specific fund, which they can draw down from.

“This means that vets, who are engaged by discussion group members, will have no option but to invoice individual farmers with regard to their professional time input. Veterinary Ireland members believe this approach is fundamentally wrong in principle.”

Geraghty confirmed that it will take at least two hours for a veterinary surgeon to complete the on-farm animal health measure in year one.

“This figure is based on a practice run at my home farm. So, for vets calling on to a farm which they are less familiar with, the time requirement might be larger.

“Additional time is also required to upload all relevant information on to the Department of Agriculture system,” he said.

Geraghty said that, under the current proposals, veterinarians have been prevented from acting as discussion group co-ordinators.

“If this were the case the animal health measures could have been included in facilitator funding and not be an additional cost to the farmer.

“We have queried why this stipulation has been introduced. Up to this point the Department of Agriculture is sticking to the view that practising vets do not have a strong enough background in agricultural science.

“Again, Veterinary Ireland members strongly disagree with this perspective, especially as other less qualified groups have been permitted to complete short modules in soil science to meet this requirement,” he said.