Written answers

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Beef Data Programme

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
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143. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the body responsible for the compensation to a farmer under the beef data and genomics scheme, where the farmer, in good faith, purchases a non-genotyped four or five star heifer on the replacement index in a mart, which is subsequently genotyped at a lower star rating at an accuracy of up to 45%, and deemed ineligible under the scheme; the reason such non-genotyped heifers are treated differently to non-genotyped cows in such circumstances; if the heifer requirement or the cow requirement applies to a non-genotyped four or five star heifer, which is sold as a cow soon after the birth of her first calf; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35753/15]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The intention behind the BDGP is to bring about fundamental and strategic improvements to the beef breeding sector by substantially improving the overall genetic quality of the Irish beef herd. An essential element required to achieve this overall goal is a robust and reliable replacement index built to suit Irish animals and production systems on which farmers can make informed breeding decisions. In order to achieve this, it is imperative that the index is developed using the most accurate information available to us and that is why genotyping is such a major part of the BDGP. The genotyping requirement within the BDGP reflects the need to genotype a high percentage of female calves at birth within scheme herds and to genotype female animals introduced from non-scheme herds so that sufficient 4 and 5 star animals can be identified. Genotyping greatly improves the reliability of the breeding indexes and of course ensures the identification of sufficient numbers of 4 & 5 star females required by BDGP herds.

Inevitably while improving the index there will be minor fluctuations in some individual animals’ ratings due to the addition of new information on that animal. This of course will further improve the reliability of that animal’s rating. Similarly, the collection of additional information across the entire herd, including the genomic data, will result in more accurate €uro-Star evaluations. Some animals will end up moving to lower star ratings while others will increase their rating reciprocally, but with these changes the index becomes more accurate and a more useful tool for suckler farmers across the country. The cattle breeding industry in Ireland is very accustomed to genetic evaluations moving over time, as more data accumulates.

As the Deputy is aware, the female replacement requirements that must be fulf illed by a farmer under the BDGP are focused on ensuring that a percentage of their heifers/eligible suckler cows (rounded to the nearest animal), in the years 2018 and 2020 are genotyped animals that are:

(i) 4 or 5 stars on the replacement index;

(ii) at least 16 months old and;

(iii) born in 2013 or later.

I have subsequently clarified to the scheme participants on point (iii) above that a female animal born before 2013 will be considered eligible if it was present in the herd before 5th June 2015 and also meets the requirements of parts (i) and (ii) above. In addition the scheme also allows animals to count as eligible even if their rating is subsequently downgraded from 4 and 5 stars provided that the animal is genotyped 4 or 5 star at the time of purchase.

The focus now on the BDGP has moved to engagement with scheme participants. My priority now is to work closely with ICBF and individual scheme participants to ensuring that implementation of the BDGP continues to deliver for Irish suckler farmers.

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