The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) will convene a beef industry stakeholder forum on the changes to replacement and terminal breeding indices for beef animals, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

At a meeting of the IFA’s national livestock committee, its chairperson Brendan Golden said that a “robust and frank discussion” was held with the ICBF chief executive Sean Coughlan.

According to Golden, the committee members “raised the genuine concerns of suckler farmers and pedigree breeders following the issuing of revised terminal and replacement indices”.

Commenting after the meeting, Golden said that the changes must have the confidence of farmers in order to work.

“Members recognised the importance of having access to independent scientifically verifiable information to inform breeding decisions on farms,” he said.

“To be of benefit, this system must have the confidence of suckler farmers and pedigree breeders,” Golden added.

According to the IFA national livestock chairperson, Coughlan committed to convening an industry stakeholder forum to address the concerns raised by the committee.

“It’s crucial that the star rating system and associated indices have the confidence of suckler farmers and pedigree breeders by reflecting the realities of production systems on the ground. The ICBF must move to convene the forum as a matter or urgency.”

Golden went on to call on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue to “play his part” in alleviating the concerns of suckler farmers in relation to eligibility for the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP).

Golden said that the changes to the indices have no immediate impact on farmers in the scheme as animals within herds retain their ratings, and the next replacement index requirement is two years away on October 31.

However, he called on the minister to “go further” and guarantee all farmers that the recent changes to the indices will not have any negative impact on SCEP eligibility for farming practices for the duration of the scheme.

“Farmers entered a five-year contract with the minister for agriculture when signing up to the SCEP scheme in May of this year.

“The goalposts have now been moved and this is unacceptable,” Golden added.

He asked the minister to “come forward as a matter of urgency to allay concerns of suckler farmers by confirming that there will be no negative consequences for farmers in SCEP as a result of these changes”.