Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Decline in Shorthorn Cattle.

66.

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he is aware of the serious decline in the numbers of cattle of the Shorthorn breed and of the value of that breed to the cattle industry; and what steps he proposes to take to rectify the matter.

I am aware that the number of Shorthorn cattle has declined despite the particular consideration given to the breed for many years, such as bull premiums at the highest rate and AI fees at a lower rate than those for other breeds. I am also aware of the value of the breed to the cattle industry.

In an effort to halt the decline my Department introduced a special scheme last year for the improvement of Shorthorn cattle. Under this scheme selected cows or heifers, together with their approved progeny by designated bulls, are eligible for entry in Coates's Herd Book. In addition, the progeny, male and female, are eligible for a headage grant of £10 at the yearling stage and a further grant of £10 is payable at the three-year old stage in respect of the female progeny retained for breeding.

Could the Minister give me any information about the number of grants paid in respect of this new scheme? Is he satisfied that the scheme is a success and that progress is being made?

Out of a total of 3,000 applicants received so far slightly less than 300 were accepted for the scheme.

That is an indication of the breed being almost extinct at the moment.

I am aware that the breed is declining and the Deputy is probably aware of the reasons for that decline. The principal reason is the rapid rise of the Friesian and the improvement from the dual purpose point of view of the Friesian animal. There are other reasons, too, of which the Deputy will be aware.