ICSA calls for a €200/suckler cow incentive to reduce beef numbers

Ireland needs a €200 per suckler cow incentive to reduce numbers in light of oversupply of beef in Europe and the complete lack of profitability in the suckler sector, ICSA Suckler Chairman, Dermot Kelleher.

He said that we need to learn from the strategy applied at EU level to deal with the dairy crisis in 2016 where the strategy was a rational move to reduce production to deal with the supply/demand imbalance.

ICSA proposes that this incentive should be available on an EU wide basis at a rate of €200 per cow per annum for up to five years on a voluntary basis.

The scheme would be based on a reference year of 2016 and the payment would be linked to the reduction in calves registered compared to 2016, it said.

ICSA believes that farmers are sick and tired of losing money to produce beef when there is so much uncertainty around viable markets.

“This strategy would expose the hypocrisy of Food Wise 2025 expansion targets by sending out a clear signal that anything less than €200 per cow net profit is unacceptable.

“It would expose the deadly consensus that farmers should be satisfied with just breaking even.

“Many older suckler farmers are putting their lives and health on the line trying to manage suckler cows and returns from the marketplace are getting worse and worse.

“The introduction of penalties on the payment grid for high quality heavy carcasses, the ongoing 30 month cut off, the racket of four residencies and the impact of Brexit on price are all coming together to completely undermine suckler farming.

“Factories have refused point blank to engage on these issues and Bord Bia has been unable to find any solutions.”

As we face into 2017 we see 200,000 more cattle for slaughter than in 2015 and continued uncertainty about live exports particularly to traditionally important markets like Italy.

Kelleher said that it is abundantly clear that the only way to deliver farm viability is scarcity.

Farm organisations have to take a responsible attitude on basic economic principles that will address the profitability question above all other considerations, he said.

The association said that it will also be necessary to deal with the surge of so-called bobby calves from the dairy herd.

With the increasing trend towards cross breeding using a combination of Holstein and Jersey genetics there is a glut of male calves totally unsuitable for any sort of viable beef production system, according to ICSA.

The current options are exporting them for veal, veal systems in Ireland or disposal through the knackery system.

“One thing is clear: advocating using them for beef is reckless and irresponsible as systems are unviable and they are just adding to the glut of beef which is further dragging down price.”

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