Farmers whose bull may be downgraded from a four- or five-star status in the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme, will not be penalised if the bull had the four/five-star status at the time of purchase, birth or testing.

Brendan Gleeson, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Agriculture, told a recent Joint Oirechtas Committee on Agriculture that farmers who start the scheme in good faith and use a bull that is of four- or five-star status at the time the bull is tested, or when they bought the bull, will not be penalised if the bull is later downgraded.

He said that such a bull qualifies for the duration of the genomics scheme. “Even if ICBF downgrades the bull during the scheme, he qualifies for the six years of the scheme.”

He also said the same would be applied to heifers. The index, he said, would be something that would improve over time, but the changes would be incremental.

He also said that there are enough cattle in the system to cope with the replacement strategy. “We engaged with the ICBF carefully on this. Some 75% of herds already have a four- or five-star bull.”

The focus now, he said, is for the Department to engage with farmers who have signed up for the genomics scheme.

“We wrote to 70,000 farmers and send information sheets to them, and spoke to 8,000 farmers on the phone.

“We have put FAQs up our the website and we will have training as part of the programme, to teach people how to use the indexes.”

The Department, he said, would be writing to everyone who signed up for the genomics scheme in the coming weeks and then the ICBF will then contact them about the star rating of their herd.

He also confirmed that farmers can exit the scheme “up to the time of payment or inspection”.

Force Majeure

The Assistant Secretary at the Department of Agriculture also confirmed that the Department would look at 2015 as a base year for new entrants.

In cases of force majeure he said they will be taken on a case-by-case basis.