ICMSA unveils details of proposed ‘dairy calf-to-beef scheme’

The Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has revealed the details of a proposed new dairy calf-to-beef scheme, which it says “incentivises farmers to rear sustainable dairy beef”.

The details of this new scheme, announced today, Thursday, October 17, were agreed upon last Friday during the ICMSA’s National Council meeting. However, the association confirmed that it will meet the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, in the coming days to discuss the plan in detail.

Briefly, the ICMSA is suggesting that beef cross calves from the dairy herd be subsidised to the value of €150 in two payments: €75 on receipt of recorded weights at 6-10 months; and the second payment at slaughter.

However, the calves would have to be sired by a beef bull with good beef characteristics.

 The full details of this new scheme are as follows:
  • The scheme will be open to all livestock farmers, but agents and feedlots would be excluded;
  • Farmers that apply to the scheme must rear calves from the dairy herd;
  • Farmers can only stock their farm at the stocking rate they had in 2019, so as to avoid an increase in beef production;
  • Male and female calves with a beef sire and dairy dam are eligible for the scheme. However, the sire must be selected from the ICBF Dairy Beef Index (DBI) or if a stock bull is used, the stock bull must have four or five stars on the terminal index;
  • The calves must be less than six weeks-of-age at time of purchase;
  • An initial payment of €75 can be drawn down by the farmer once the animal is weighed between six and ten months;
  • The second payment of €75 is drawn down after the animal is slaughtered;
  • Steers must be slaughtered within 30 months and heifers must be slaughtered within 24 months;
  • Suckler farmers that wish to enter the scheme in 2020 should be allowed exit the Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP) without any ‘clawback’ of monies;
  • Farmers can only avail of the scheme on a maximum of 100 calves per year.

The president of ICMSA, Pat McCormack, said that his “organisation would welcome” the possibility of Government support for farmers rearing animals from the dairy herd for beef.

Continuing, he said: “Over 50% of all the beef in the country originates in the dairy herd and it is a sector that requires support if it is to reach its potential.”

He also noted that it is anticipated that approximately 1.8 million cows will calve down next spring, while in 2018 just over 1 million calves were dairy-bred bull calves or calves with a beef sire and a dairy dam.

“In order for the dairy sector to remain sustainable we must have sufficient markets for these calves next Spring.

“This means that the live export market must remain open for our dairy-bred beef calves, but also that we must support farmers that are willing to rear the beef cross calves here in Ireland.

With this in mind, the ICMSA are making a formal suggestion to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to put the funds towards incentivising farmers to rear these calves.

Continuing, he said: “The beef sector is under very significant financial pressure. Dairy beef has been demonstrated to be the most profitable beef production system – albeit returns are still low. We want support to be targeted to this production system as the figures show it to be the most viable.”

He also said that “it is strongly recommend that farmers should be allowed exit the BDGP scheme early without ‘clawback’ of payments in order to enter the scheme”.

Concluding, McCormack said: “The landscape of dairy and beef farming has changed considerably in the last few years. The ICMSA is focused on providing solutions and we believe this scheme would tackle some of the problems faced by both industries.”