Farmers with autumn-born weanlings have been “effectively frozen out” of the 2024 Beef Welfare Scheme (BWS), the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said.

IFA livestock chair Declan Hanrahan said serious issues must be addressed before the BWS opens in early August.

Issues were raised with the Department of Agriculture last spring that suckler farmers needed to know the timeframe for calves to be born in to be eligible for the scheme and the measures required, he said.

Eligible calves will be those born to eligible suckler cows from 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2024.

Autumn 2023-born calves have now been sold and the opportunity to carry out the actions has passed, Hanrahan added.

“The Minister cannot stand over a situation where he provides details of a scheme requiring actions on farm when the animals are gone,” he said.

Maximum number of animals

A further issue highlighted by the livestock chair is the inclusion of a maximum number of animals eligible for payment in the scheme.

“While the vast majority of suckler farmers have fewer than 40 cows, those with more than 40 cows and who are heavily dependent on the income from their suckler herd cannot be penalised.

“All suckler cows should qualify for the measures carried out,” he said.

Hanrahan added that as the BWS is a vital support for suckler farmers, it is important all suckler farmers are provided with the opportunity to participate and to receive payment on all suckler cows in their herd.

He called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to address these issues.