New Scheme Announced for Suckler Farmers

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD announced the opening of a new support scheme for suckler farmers. The National Beef Welfare Scheme (NBWS) is a support measure designed to enhance animal health and husbandry on suckler farms.

The scheme will support farmers in meal feeding suckler calves in advance of and after weaning, and in testing for the presence of Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) in their herds. Both actions are mandatory for farmers who wish to participate in the scheme.

Farmers who take part in the NBWS as well as the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP), will earn €200/cow calf pair.

Commenting on the new scheme, Minister McConalogue emphasised its importance from an animal health and welfare perspective, stating, “we have a truly world class suckler sector driven by farmers who are constantly looking at improving all aspects of their herd. This scheme promotes calf nutrition and herd health. Meal feeding is important for calves to thrive and this scheme assists farmers to cover increased costs in caring for their livestock at weaning stage.”

“We are also targeting IBR because it is a highly contagious viral condition affecting cattle. The scheme incentivises farmers to conduct a snapshot test of their herd, to gauge its prevalence in the national herd. Based on the results, farmers can access advice on improving the IBR status of their herd. The results of the IBR diagnostic testing will provide each participating farmer with information on the IBR status of their herd, enabling farmers in consultation with their veterinary practitioner to develop a tailored approach to IBR as part of their herd health plan. Coupled with the SCEP, the NBWS will be an important income support for suckler farmers. Since my time in opposition, I promised €200 supports for suckler farmers and I am now delivering on this commitment.”

Participants must introduce meal feeding for a period of four weeks pre-weaning and two weeks post-weaning to reduce calf stress at weaning time. Farmers will be paid €35 per eligible calf up to a maximum of 40 calves.

Farmers must also get their herd tested for IBR by engaging a veterinarian to select, blood sample and test up to twenty animals for IBR antibodies.

Where a herd has twenty or more bovines, twenty must be tested. If a herd has less than twenty bovines, then all must be tested. Farmers will be paid up to €300 per herd depending on the number of animals tested for IBR.

Applications must be lodged online through with a closing date of 12 September. There is no facility for late applications because scheme actions must be completed before 1 November 2023 to allow for payments to participants to issue in mid-December 2023.

Concluding, Minister McConalogue commended the importance of the beef sector to the economy, saying, “as Minister, I have always strongly supported our beef sector to make it more efficient and competitive. Consistent with the Programme for Government, this scheme is further recognition of the critical role suckler farming plays in the beef sector. This new scheme complements the five-year Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) which is funded under Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan.”

“Beef output alone accounted for €3.1 billion worth of exports to more than 60 markets worldwide in 2022. To maintain those markets, we need to continue producing high-quality beef sourced from cattle with good health and welfare credentials.”