The Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme was a five-year programme for beef breed animals which were born during the period 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2012. This Scheme was fully funded by the Exchequer. Over the five year duration of the Scheme, in excess of €155 million has already been delivered in support to suckler cow farmers. The Scheme has made an important contribution to improving the genetic quality of the national suckler herd and enhancing the welfare standards for animals produced from the suckler cow herd. A number of outstanding cases remain to be finalised.
Applicants undertook to carry out and notify to my Department, details of the required measures as outlined in the Terms and Conditions from their year of entry into the Scheme up to the end of 2012. Because of the nature of the Scheme, failure to comply with its requirements in a given year could give rise to exclusion from the Scheme in subsequent years.
Turning specifically to the 2012 tranche of the Scheme, 33,365 eligible applicants continued to participate in the Scheme. A total of 650 of these herds were found to have no beef breed animals in their herd in 2012 and therefore are not due any payment. Thus far, penalties ranging from 1% to 5% have been imposed on 4,204 of these applicants where a low degree of non –compliance with the requirements of the Scheme has been identified. Some 4,909 cases remain to be finalised because a range of outstanding issues remain to be resolved. These relate in the main to failure to provide requisite information in relation to measures taken, or where it has proved necessary to contact applicants to resolve details relating to individual animals.
Thus far, almost €20m has been paid under the 2012 element of the Scheme and payments continue to be made as details of required measures are received and as individual issues are resolved.
In December last, I announced the introduction of a new Beef Data Recording Programme for beef animals born between 1 January and 31 December 2013. This Programme will build on the progress achieved under the Suckler Welfare Scheme, in particular, by continuing to provide farmers with a comprehensive database which will assist them in making their breeding decisions with the objectives of improving the quality of beef produced and the overall competitiveness of the Irish Beef industry.