Senator Robbie Gallagher (FF).

Mixed reaction for new dairy beef scheme

A new support measure for dairy farmers producing calves destined for beef production has received mixed reaction.

Senator Robbie Gallagher has welcomed the Dairy Beef Welfare Scheme (DBWS); whereas farmer lobby groups ICSA are concerned by its terms whereas ICMSA focussed on its budget dismissing the €25 million over four years as "derisory".

The scheme is co-funded by the EU as part of the CAP Strategic Plan. It is part of a ten-point Action plan to support the development of a dairy-beef sector in Ireland.

“This scheme will support farmers using genetically superior beef sires for breeding dairy beef calves. Participants will be required to use AI straws or stock bulls with a minimum rating of 3 stars on the ICBF Dairy Beef Index (DBI) and on the beef sub-index of the DBI. Farmers who satisfy the scheme requirements will receive a payment of €20 per eligible calf up to a maximum of 50 calves per holding,” he detailed.

ICSA Beef chair John Cleary said the DBWS ignores how "too many" farmers are still using Jersey/Kiwi cow genetics for their herd.

“Dairy farmers who use sexed semen are doubling down on producing dairy cows that simply won’t be able to produce high merit beef calves,” he said.

“It is also worth noting that an incentive of just €20 per eligible calf is unlikely to sufficiently motivate dairy farmers focused on maximising milk production to alter their breeding practices.

He added that “any value to be gleaned from the DBWS will be determined by the more widespread use of Commercial Beef Values (CBVs) when decisions are being made around what animals to buy for further feeding. By using the CBV, farmers are already making more informed decisions about what they are buying and how these animals are likely to perform, and it remains unlikely that calf to beef producers will want calves born from Jersey/Kiwi crosses. What we need to see is all marts - without exception - displaying CBVs on their boards.”

President of ICMSA, Denis Drennan meanwhile said that any reasonable analysis of the DBWS funding allocated could conclude that the €6.5m per year allocated is “derisory” set against data showing that the sector that is delivering over €1.7 billion in exports and now represents nearly 65% of total beef production in Ireland.

Mr. Drennan contrasted the allocation of €25 million - €6.5m per annum - while organic farming has been allocated €57m and forestry has been allocated €110m.