SCEP Targets – How hard will it be?
The main actions associated with the new SCEP scheme will be familiar to many suckler farmers who have been participating in the precursor schemes BDGP and BEEP. For the majority the slight increases in the targets will be very achievable however some farmers will need to take some actions now to ensure they can claim the full payment for the 5 years. To see how achievable the SCEP targets are we will work through an example farm.
John has a reference number of 30 cows for the scheme, has 40ha, is a member of SBLAS (Bord Bia) and plans to maintain herd size. John met his advisor has gotten their reference number from DAFM’s website agfood.ie and has worked out that he will be paid approx. €4,600 each year of the scheme which adds up to €23,000 over the 5 year term (this is before the cost of genotyping is deducted). As John is planning to maintain his suckler numbers it makes sense for him to seriously consider the scheme. There are 4 main targets that John has to consider namely Sires, Females, Genotyping, Weighing.
Action 1: Eligible Bull/Eligible AI
Under this action farmers are required to use sires that are of a high genetic merit. Bulls must be 4 or 5 star on the Replacement or Terminal index with a Genomic proof and this can be within or across breed. Our case study farmer John uses a combination of AI and a stock bull. He always uses 5 star replacement index bulls when using AI and has a 4 star terminal index stock bull that he uses for mopping up. Unlike the BDGP there is no requirement to have the bull in the herd for a certain date, in SCEP the sire target is met by having the correct percentage of calves born from 4/5 star bulls. From the 1st of July 2023, 80% of calves born must be from a 4/5 star bull, this increases to 85% from 1st of July 2024 and then rises again to 90% on the 1st of July 2026 for the final year of the scheme. Farmers using all high index sires should not have an issue with this requirement, but should watch out for calves born to unknown sires, even strong weanlings or cows bought calf in, as that may cause an issue.
Action 2 – Female Replacement Strategy
Perhaps the most talked about element of the SCEP is the requirement to have enough females 4/5 star on the Replacement Index with a genomic evaluation. The evaluation that qualifies for the scheme is the first genomic evaluation within the herd. If an animal is 4 or 5 star when its DNA (genotype) is included in its evaluation for the first time than that animal will always be eligible in that herd. So animals that were eligible for the BDGP will continue to count for the targets provided they are still in the herd. John like many farmers has some cows that were 4/5 star but have since fallen in index, however John knows that these cows will still qualify for SCEP as they counted for the BDGP. Currently to be a 4 star on replacement index across breed an animal must be €99 plus at the beginning of BDGP this figure was €73, so the genetic gains that we have made have pushed this figure higher. The Female Replacement Strategy for SCEP on the 31st of October 2023 is the same as it was for BDGP (50% of ref number) and 98% of herds passed this target. Then the next female requirement is on the 31st of October 2025, where 65% of the reference number must be 4/5 star and finally on the 31st of October 2027, 75% of the reference number must be 4/5 star. So for herds who are tight for stars at the moment have plenty of time to breed or buy for the later targets, as once they get past the 2023 requirement the next one is two years away. Of the herds in the last BDGP 75% of them are already passing the 2027 target so the vast majority of herds should have no issue meeting the star requirements of the scheme.
Action 3 – Genotyping
Genotyping is the use of a DNA sample to help predict how well an animal will perform in the future. The DNA sample that farmers provide for their animals can be used to confirm parentage and give the animal a more accurate genomic Eurostar rating. For SCEP farmers must genotype 70% of their reference number each year. For John 70% of his reference number of 30 would be 21 so he has to sample this number each year. For the majority of herds they will have enough calves between bulls and heifers to sample each year. Samples also have to be returned to the lab each year before Nov 30th.
Action 4 – Weighing and Submission of Weights to ICBF
John was a member of the BEEP schemes since they began and he has always found it straight forward and the information gathered to be useful. The SCEP weighing requirement is similar to BEEP the cow and unweaned calf must be weighed on the same day and the weights provided to ICBF. There is no requirement to feed meal, vaccinate or dung sample as there was in BEEP. Also in SCEP calves have to be at least 50 days old before a valid weight can be taken. 80% of the calf/cow pairs must be weighed to meet the weighing requirement of SCEP. Unlike the stars and genotyping targets this is 80% up to the reference number, so as John’s ref number is 30 he needs to weigh 24 pairs each year. But if John calves less than 30 cows in the scheme year he then only has to weigh 80% of that number. ICBF would encourage farmers to weigh all their cows and calves as the data is really important to get accurate Eurostar rankings. Our farmer John sees the value of weighing animals so he would do this even if there was no scheme so the weighing should be no bother to him.
Overall John knows that this is a 5 year scheme and signing up is a commitment that should not be done lightly. He has done his homework, knows how the targets fit in with his herd and feels that he can make them with a little effort and forward planning. John will join the scheme as it gives a stable income stream for the next 5 years and the targets are achievable in his herd.
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