30 November 2001

Irish farms get top up for dry heifers

SUCKLER cow producers in the Republic of Ireland will get a Ir£60/head (£47) top-up for their "dry heifers" next year, paid out of the countrys national beef envelope.

Announcing the measure, farm minister Joe Walsh said the money would help those farmers who would lose out under the new EU rules for a minimum 15% inclusion of heifers in next years SCP claims. Brussels is insisting these animals do not calve down during the six-month retention period.

The minister also confirmed that the Ir£8.2m paid as a top-up to the slaughter premium on beef breed heifers since 2000 would continue. It is expected to be worth about Ir£21/head this year.

The Ir£8.2m introduced this year for suckler cow replacements, which come into the herd as maiden heifers and drop their calves before the end of the same year, will also continue.

"The retention of the top-up for beef heifers which calve before the end of the year, combined with the fact that heifers under the 15% rule must not calve before the end of the retention period, will encourage more farmers to consider autumn calving," said Irish Cattle and Sheep Association beef chairman Joe Kilmartin. "This would reduce the seasonality of Irish beef production."

On the dairy side, Mr Walsh has increased the threshold below which dairy farmers can also claim suckler cow premium from 147,600 litres to 161,200 litres to facilitate the restructuring of the dairy herd and to accommodate the allocation of more milk quota, granted to Ireland under Agenda 2000.

But it does not go far enough for the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, which believes a threshold of 180,000 litres should apply. "Farmers should be allowed to develop their dairy and suckler cow enterprises in tandem with a view to helping them achieve a viable income," said dairy chairman Jackie Cahill. &#42