Quality Suckler Cow Herd Needs Stronger Supports – IFA

Speaking at the Newford suckler herd Open Day in Teagasc, Athenry Co Galway,  IFA President Joe Healy said increased targeted direct supports will be essential to maintain our quality suckler cow herd, which is the backbone of Ireland’s €2.3bn beef and livestock sector.

The Newford suckler herd was established by Dawn Meats and Teagasc in 2015, with support from McDonalds, to demonstrate best practice in suckler beef production.

Joe Healy said the €52m Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) secured by IFA was a positive start in terms of supporting the suckler cow herd. IFA is proposing that the level of direct support for the suckler cow herd should be increased to €200 per cow, and also that the BDGP should be simplified and the cost to farmers reduced.

The IFA President called for the BDGP to be re-opened immediately to allow new applicants in 2016. He said, based on the fall-off from the original applications in 2015, there is adequate funding to re-open the scheme at this stage. Joe Healy said he had discussed this request with the Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and was looking for a positive response from the Minister.

IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said our 1 million head suckler cow herd is vital to the beef and livestock sectors, and provides the marketing image on which all our quality beef exports and access to the higher priced retail market outlets are secured.

He said investment in the suckler cow herd delivers real value for money in rural communities. A study by UCD Professor of Agricultural Economics Alan Renwick shows that each €1 of support invested in the beef sector, underpins over €4 in output in the Irish economy. At local level for County Clare, the study showed that the cattle sector is embedded in the local economy, with 80% of cattle output sold in the county and over 90% of inputs sourced in the county.

Across Europe, Angus Woods pointed out that 24 of the 27 member states have used coupled payments to support their beef and livestock sectors, with the majority of funding focused on suckler cow payments. He said Cyprus, Lithuania and Ireland are the only exceptions, with no coupled supports for beef. 42% of all coupled support, amounting to €1.8bn has been targeted at beef by member states, with countries like France providing support of up to €180 per suckler cow.

Angus Woods said one of the biggest challenges on profitability in the suckler cow herd is the imposition of unfair price penalties by the processors on carcase weights. He said the best bred and most productive beef animals from the suckler herd are being unfairly penalised.

IFA analysis shows that the carcase weight penalties hit the suckler herd hardest, with over 25% of steers and 35% of bulls from suckler bred animals incurring a penalty at over 420kgs. This would cost the Irish beef farmers over €10m in a full year.

The IFA Livestock leader said the factories are using the easy option of applying price penalties on carcase weights, as opposing to using modern cutting methods and technology to find a better solution to heavier carcases from our best and most productive animals. He said, “Processors are using cutting methods from 50 years ago and claiming that they are unable to handle heavier carcases. They need to change and adopt new cutting techniques, which will allow the entire sector to develop and benefit from our more productive genetics”.

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