The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) suckler committee chairman, Dermot Kelleher, has criticised the Minister for Agriculture’s decision to end the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, saying it will have a detrimental effect on the development of genetic data for the industry and will have repercussions for weanling welfare.
The €25 million Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme (SCWS) was replaced in the most recent Budget by a new Beef Data Programme (BDF). The payment per cow under the new programme is just half the €40 paid out last year under the SCWS – and is capped at a maximum of 20 cows, or €400.
“The end of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme is a disaster. The Beef Data Programme which has been set up as a replacement is a mere shadow of what was a hugely beneficial scheme which was providing excellent value for money for the Government,” Mr Kelleher said.
“Many top class suckler farmers will not take part in the Beef Data Programme because the increased risk of inspections and the paperwork involved is simply not worth the return they can expect under it. This will have huge consequences because the genetic data gathered during the lifetime of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme has been of enormous benefit to the sector. I fear that a significant fall-off in the level of data being gathered will set the development of the suckler industry back by years.
“I very much hope that farmers will continue to send in their information, but to ensure this, the Minister needs to reverse the decision to end the SCWS, or alternatively to put a realistic payment in place. As it stands, a farmer with 40 suckler cows who was receiving €1,600 has been cut to €400.”
Mr Kelleher added that there is also a worry about the welfare aspect of the suckler industry going forward. “There has also been a total withdrawal of support for weanling welfare. There is a danger now that less than ideal weaning methods could creep back in and ultimately that could damage the industry as a whole in terms of live exports,” he told the Leitrim Observer.
“The solution to this is to reinstate the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, or make decent provision for the suckler herd under a new scheme. The Minister and the Government must understand this.”