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Coughlan announces major initiatives on the Suckler Herd

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Ms Mary Coughlan TD, today announced an important initiative aimed at improving welfare and quality in the suckler herd. The initiative involves the introduction of a Suckler Cow Herd Welfare and Quality Scheme. Participation in the scheme will be voluntary and open to all suckler farmers. This initiative is included in the Draft Rural Development Programme which will go out to public consultation within the next few days. The Minister emphasised that EU approval would be required for the implementation of every element of this programme including the suckler initiative

The Minister referred to the fact that the suckler herd is the source of our high quality beef which is so important to the rural economy and economy in general. Currently it comprises 65,000 herds with over 1 million cows and is the bedrock upon which our international beef sector has been built and on which we will have to rely in the coming years.

Minister Coughlan added that in developing the scheme she was now delivering on a key element of the Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan. The Action Plan identified the beef sector as a vital area for development. She was adopting a coherent and structured approach to the beef sector, the overall aim of which is to equip it to meet the challenges and to exploit the opportunities available in the coming decade.

The Minister's approach centres on the following initiatives:

  • Better scientifically based animal breeding;
  • Efficient farm production within a Quality Assurance Scheme
  • Beef labelling to improve consumer protection and confidence.
  • Sophisticated and targeted marketing;
  • Advanced slaughtering, processing and product development and
  • A Suckler Cow Herd Welfare and Quality Scheme, which is the subject of to-day's announcement.

The Minister said that a budget of €250m had been allocated to the Scheme. Payments of €80 per cow would be available to suckler cow farmers who undertake to comply with six obligatory animal welfare related measures set out for the scheme. These measures are:

  • Animal Events Recording
  • Disbudding of Calves
  • Castration of Calves
  • Minimum Calving Age
  • Weaning Best Practice
  • Replacement of female breeding stock (optional)
  • Training

The Animal Events Recording is the building block of a "new" beef suckler herd. This involves the collection of comprehensive data on breeding (sire etc.) and animal welfare (ease of calving, calf mortality, culling, dates of disbudding, dates of castration etc)

Disbudding of Calves will have to be undertaken within three weeks of birth.

Castration of male calves must be completed at least four weeks before the weaning process (unless the farmer is involved in the production/sale of bulls)

Minimum Calving Age shall be set at 24 months.

Weaning Best Practice is a major element of the scheme and will involve a feeding regime, graduated weaning and date of sale (i.e. sale may only take place at least two weeks after completion of weaning).

Replacement of Breeding Stock involves the upgrading of replacement heifers. Payment will be made on a replacement heifer linked to genetic merit when she first calves in the herd.

This is a voluntary element recognising developments in the genetic evaluation system this can only apply from 2009.

Training will involve attendance by participating farmers at a training course dedicated to herd welfare and breeding issues.

The proposed level of payment is as follows:

Animal Events Recording................................
(€14 where electronic reporting is used)
€12/cow
Disbudding, Castration, Weaning................... €49/cow
Record Keeping, Minimum Calving Age,..........
Transaction Costs
€19/cow
Total €80/cow

Other Payments:

Replacement Heifers ......€200/qualifying heifer (from 2009)
Training ..............€250 to participating farmer

Payment Ceiling: Payment ceiling will be limited to the first 100 suckler cows in each qualifying herd.

The Minister added that she was very pleased to have been in a position to put this scheme into the Plan for forwarding to Brussels given the huge role that welfare and quality will play in the industry going forward.

6 November 2006

Date Released: 06 November 2006