The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has announced that the “breeder’s choice” class for beef heifers will return to agricultural shows this year, with a prize fund of €50,000. The competition will be open to four- and five-star breeding heifers in two separate classes: traditional breeds and continental breeds. Pedigree as well as commercial heifers are eligible for the classes. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) said the requirement for four- and five-star in-calf or maiden heifers aligns with the aims of the incoming Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) to increase the number of these heifers in the suckler herd.
The “breeder’s choice” competition was first introduced in 2022, with more than 60 shows participating in the class. The success of the competition has led to the allocation of funding of €250,000 over a five-year period. The Irish Shows Association (ISA) will administer the competition class, and over the course of the summer, more than 60 shows will benefit from the new class. The return of the beef breeding class has been welcomed by farmers and handlers alike.
The competition will be run at every show that has cattle classes, and each heifer can attend up to five shows. Heifers may be in-calf or maiden, with the animals being between 12 months and 24 months of age on the date of the show. All heifers must be halter-trained and led by a competent adult. The rules and conditions of the breeding class should be read in conjunction with ISA general rules.
The requirement for four- and five-star in-calf or maiden heifers aligns with the aims of the incoming Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) to increase the number of these heifers in the suckler herd. The SCEP is a new programme aimed at improving the efficiency of suckler cow production in Ireland, with a focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The programme is part of the government’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030.
The return of the beef breeding class this year has been welcomed by Minister Charlie McConalogue, who said that he was “blown away” by the success of the competition in 2022. He added that he was delighted to continue to work with the Irish Shows Association on this exciting, multi-year, and long-term investment. Jim Harrison, secretary of the ISA, also welcomed the announcement by the minister and urged farmers and handlers to get their quality four- and five-star heifers out and into their local show this summer to avail of this exciting new showing class.
The return of the “breeder’s choice” competition is a commitment from the minister and his department to the shows sector, to the quality of breeding cattle, and to rural Ireland as a whole. It is hoped that the competition will encourage farmers to breed high-quality heifers and improve the efficiency of suckler cow production in Ireland. With a prize fund of €50,000, the competition is sure to attract some of the best heifers in the country, and it is expected that the competition will be keenly contested at shows throughout the summer.