The Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) has been billed as a fresh start, replacing BDGP, which ran from 2015 to 2022. This new scheme brings with it an attractive increase in payment rate, with BDGP having offered farmers €142.50/ha for the first 6.66ha and €120 per remaining eligible hectare.
In order to qualify, the farmer must be a member of the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme and must remain a member for the duration of the programme.
The new scheme brings with it higher targets, with the Department seeking greater ambition from participants.
In years one and two, 80pc of the calves produced on the farm must be from a four or five-star sire. This was the same target farmers had to reach under the BDGP scheme.
This requirement increases to 85pc in years three and four, and increases to 90pc in year five. The sire can be genotyped four or five-star on either Terminal or Replacement Index.
Farmers will need to be careful with the purchase of in-calf heifers, where you are not sure of the sire. Again similar to BDGP, on the dam side, in year one, at least 50pc must be at least four-star on the replacement index. New to this scheme is the increase to at least 65pc by year three and four, and at least 75pc by year five. One big change from the BDGP is that these numbers must be retained on the holding throughout the year. It won’t be just a matter of reaching the figure on October 31.
For anyone that was in the BDGP scheme, you are familiar with the genotyping requirement. In SCEP you must take a tissue sample on 70pc of the reference number each year. ICBF will nominate the animals for genotyping, but farmers will be able to nominate other animals if they so wish.
For farmers who weren’t in the BDGP scheme, it is recommended to check your Euro-Star ratings in order to assess the current status of your herd. The scheme may not suit every herd, but despite the challenges the scheme brings higher payments when compared to BDGP.
The Euro-Star index shows where an animal’s genetic index ranks within the population. Five stars means the animal is in the top 20pc of the population, with each star representing 20pc of the population.
The index has attracted a lot of commentary since 2015. ICBF encourages farmers that the rate at which the Euro-Stars of animals in your herd improves depends on how aggressively you select and cull your breeding stock based on their Euro-Star values. Some farmers are now concerned about the availability of four and five-star animals to purchase in marts.
Over the years, farmers have raised concerns around low ratings being attached to what they would usually consider a high-quality cow.
Some farmers felt that the record of consistently producing top quality and high value weanlings was not being recognised by the index.
The BDGP had been heavily criticised for its focus on star ratings, and SCEP is likely to face the same criticisms going forward.