A large crowd of over 120 beef and sheep farmers filled the meeting room in the Tara Arms Hotel in Tullow for a meeting jointly organised by Carlow IFA and Tullow Livestock Mart. The meeting was chaired by IFA Carlow Chairman John Brennan and heard interesting presentations from IFA National Sheep Chairman James Murphy, Joe Burke from Bord Bia, Pearse Kelly beef specialist with Teagasc and IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns.
At the meeting, Joe Burke livestock Manager from Bord Bia said the market prospects for beef and sheep are positive. On beef he said Irish cattle supplies will be tight in 2012, projected to be back 70/90,000 head. British cattle prices have risen in the last 2 weeks and they are forecasting a 5 to 6% drop in production in 2012. EU beef production is forecast to fall by 3.2% this year and imports from South America will be lower. In addition, Europe is exporting more beef and live cattle.
On Sheep, Joe Burke said the Irish flock is in recovery and set to grow this year. He said the increase in ewe numbers was fuelled by positive lamb prices. He said there was positive potential to grow Irish lamb sales in Belgium, Germany and Sweden. France and the UK remain the major export markets for Irish lamb.
IFA National Sheep Chairman James Murphy said the positive news on the lamb market prospects was encouraging for sheep farmers. He said sheep farmers will respond to strong prices and expand but factories need to send out a positive message. James Murphy said we need 2011 prices and better for 2012. Lamb is a quality product that is entitled to a top class price.
James Murphy said he was very supportive of quality assurance but was disappointed with the lack of price incentive for it. He called for a decent worthwhile bonus to drive quality assurance, in the order of €5.00 per lamb. He said farmers will respond and are prepared to increase the specification to drive a strong bonus.
On sheep tagging and electronic identification, James Murphy said the minimalist approach adopted by Ireland was the best approach for the Irish sheep sector. He said EID is creating real problems in the UK and Spain. In Germany, farmers have successfully taken a court case against EID, which has now been referred to Europe. He said there were real problems with EID over the lack of proper tolerances, welfare issues and a CMMS type database. James Murphy said the derogation from EID on lambs direct to slaughter must be retained
On the positive future for sheep, James Murphy said IFA is working with all the stakeholders including the processors, MII, Teagasc, Sheep Ireland and Bord Bia. He said IFA has put a strong plan in place for growth in sheep and recently met Minster Coveney and the high level Food Harvest 2020 Implementation Group. He said growth will only take place if lamb prices remain strong and sheep farming is profitable.
Pearse Kelly Teagasc Beef Specialist, made a detailed presentation on the New Beef Discussion Group Programme recently launched by Minister Coveney. He said the target is to get 5,000 beef and suckler farmers signed up for discussion groups by the application date of March 7<sup>th</sup>. The payment is up to €1,000 per farmer.
The Teagasc beef specialist said the discussion group approach is well proven with the Better Farm Programme delivering an increase in gross margin profitability from €350/ha to €850/ha over a 3 year period.
Participants will have to attend 5 to 6 discussion group meetings each year and complete a number of other tasks. The key areas will cover grassland management, financial management, breeding, herd health and producing for the market.
To be eligible, Suckler farmers must be members of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme and be in Herd Plus. Beef farmers must be members of the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme, slaughter at least 15 cattle per year and be in Herd Plus.
On cattle prices, IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said there is no need for finishers to sell cattle at less than €4.00/kg at the moment. He said Teagasc figures show that feeders need €4.20 to €4.40/kg for cattle out of the sheds to make a margin. He said with a weekly kill of only 26/27,000 head per week factories were sending a very negative message to farmers and particularly on bulls.
Henry Burns said cattle prices in the UK are firming over the last two weeks and numbers are tightening. He said feeders should shop round and be prepared to move if necessary.
On CAP 2013 the IFA Livestock Chairman strongly rejected the Ciolos proposals for a flat rate payment and said the Single Farm Payment must be fully protected. He said the livestock sector is very dependent on direct payments and there can be no reduction in the €880m SFP budget to livestock producers.
Henry Burns said the 2014 reference year issue and Greening must be resolved. “IFA has made the CAP 2013 proposals and protecting the Single Farm Payment an absolute priority for the Association.”
The IFA livestock leader also updated the meeting on IFA work in respect of injured animals, imports and farm inspections. In addition, he said IFA was very positive about the new Discussion Group programme and he encouraged livestock farmers to join a group immediately.