Commenting on the strong interest shown by suckler farmers in SCEP, IFA livestock chairman Brendan Golden said over 20,000 farmers applied – accounting for almost 500,000 suckler cows.

He said the number of cows is an increase from the previous scheme and underlines farmers’ commitment to the sector.

It also shows the critical importance of ensuring meaningful and direct support for our suckler herd is given, as it is the foundation of our €2.5bn beef sector.

“Our entire beef sector and the associated jobs are built on the reputation and production systems of suckler farms, and these practices are the key selling point used for Irish beef throughout the world,” he said.

Suckler cow decline

However, he said, suckler cow numbers have been in continual decline for over a decade now – and this must be stopped.

Brendan Golden stated that the starting point must be the payment, in full, to the farmers who have applied to the SCEP programme on all cows.

This must then be built on in the replacement scheme for BEEP-S.

He said the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, following last year’s budget, talked about an additional €90/cow in this scheme.

“The Minister must now honour that and ensure the new scheme that is to be announced in the coming weeks provides an additional €90/cow for all cows farmers apply on,” he said.

Brendan Golden said the scheme must be easy to implement on farms, with compliance costs kept to a minimum to ensure the supports provided remain with suckler farmers.