380kg carcass limit the end for continental sucklers – ICSA

ICSA suckler chairman Dermot Kelleher has said that the Meat Industry Ireland (MII) communication on spec for beef which is setting a maximum carcass weight of 380kg effectively means that the meat industry doesn’t want the Irish suckler herd based on continental cattle breeds.

“Many years of breeding lean, high grade cattle is now being consigned to the dustbin by the new direction announced by the meat industry. Suckler farmers cannot make a living selling high grade continental weanlings if the beef finisher is faced with an impossible dilemma of paying a viable price to the suckler man and then being restricted to a final carcass weight of 380kg. At a bull beef price of €3.60, that means a finished price of €1,368, yet high quality 400kg weanlings need a minimum of €1,000. The sums just cannot add up.”

“All the talk about the importance of the suckler herd is just waffle. It’s clear that neither processors nor retailers have any value in the suckler herd. The targets set out by MII for 16-month bull beef and under-30 month steer beef with a maximum weight of 380kg simply cannot support a continental suckler cow. Presumably they will be satisfied with Angus calves out of the dairy herd where the economics are not about quality meat but those are the only cows that can sustain this model.

“Before this announcement, the outlook for sucklers was very poor anyway with increasing numbers of farmers deciding to sell cows. This news will confirm that there is no other option. Minister Coveney needs to announce now that Food Harvest 2020 is dead. It was a nice idea but it is obvious that the meat industry and the retailing sector is not interested in the suckler sector.

“Teagasc needs to be honest and stop advising farmers to increase output on suckler farms because the returns will be disastrous with these limits. Teagasc also need to be upfront about the profit monitor returns that they have from all BTAP participants which, I reckon, will tell a sorry tale.

Suckler farmers will be forced to look at other options but for many on marginal land, the alternatives are limited,” he concluded.