Fancy €1,000 just for joining a beef discussion group?

A new scheme will see individual beef and suckler farmers who join up and attend a discussion group get a cheque for approximately €1,000 per member from the Department of Agriculture.

That is according to Vincent Costello, former president of the Agricultural Consultants Association and now a Department of Agriculture-approved Discussion Group Facilitator.

Mr Costello feels that apart from the cash incentive, there are many benefits for thos who join the group.

I can safely say the €1,000 the farmer gets by joining this new scheme is really only the tip of the iceberg when it come to quantifying the benefits that will arrive once the farmer becomes a group member,” said Mr Costello

The farming community is unique in the way it openly trades farm secrets and most farmers will admit you can see something in every farm that you can bring home and implement on your own farm.

“To date there is great interest in the new Beef Discussion Group programme and from my experience with dairy discussion groups the farmer who is least likely to join is the farmer who has most to gain and €1,000 is a great incentive to get this farmer on board.”

The Beef Discussion Group programme will be based on the hugely successful programme that is already operating in the dairy sector. In the space of just two years, the dairy discussion group programme has doubled the number of farmers participating in discussion groups by paying them €1,000 per anum for participating.

It is expected that the programme will be implemented over three years, with the possibility of extending it following a review of its operations after year two.

A maximum of 20 members per discussion group is envisaged, although this will be left to the discretion of the facilitators and may need to be increased to cope with numbers.

All participants must be signed up to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation's (ICBF ) Herdplus prior to joining a discussion group, while suckler farmers must be in the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme. Farmers who are not participants of the Suckler Welfare Scheme must have sold 15 finished cattle for slaughter in 2011 to be eligible.

The programme will focus on best practice in four key areas: grassland management, breeding, financial management and herd health.

In order to qualify for the payment, participants must attend at least five meetings a year. Attendance at one national or regional event, such as an open day in Grange will qualify as one of the group meetings.

For details see e-mail: [email protected] or www.vincentcostello.com His mobile no: is 087 2626173

His offices are at: New Inn, Ballinasloe 09096 75606: High Street,Tuam 093 25775: and James Street, Claremorris, Co. Mayo 094 9362735.

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