54,000 feedlot cattle slaughtered in 2 months: Calls made for ‘impact study’

A total of 54,000 cattle originating from ‘Controlled Finishing Units’ – or Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine defined ‘restricted feedlots’ – were slaughtered in January and February this year, according to department figures.

Reacting to the numbers, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) said that Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Michael Creed should commission “an independent study” regarding the influence of feedlots on the price paid for farmers’ cattle.

President of the ICMSA Pat McCormack said that, based on the department’s data, those 54,000 cattle represent 17% of the total kill for those months.

Also Read: Department now publishing feedlot kill on monthly basis

He described the figure as “extremely significant“, adding that ordinary farmers are justifiably questioning the influence of such operations and impact it’s on cattle prices.

“During those months farmers got substantially reduced prices on the previous year and consequently suffered major losses.

In 2017 and 2018 respectively, 263,000 and 295,000 cattle were slaughtered from department-designated feedlots.

“There can be no doubt that such figures will have a significant downward influence on beef prices at particular times of the year,” he said.

Feedlot department definition

According to the Department of Agriculture, under the TB programme, a feedlot herd comprises a ‘non-breeding’ unit which disposes of all cattle direct for slaughter and fulfills at least one of the following three criteria: cattle are permanently housed (never on pasture); there are no adjoining holdings/lands with cattle; and boundaries are walled, double fenced or equivalent to prevent any direct contact with cattle on neighbouring lands/premises/holdings.

Although grass can be included in the diet, the department clearly outlines that if intending to graze, the land must be secured so there can be no contact with other cattle on neighbouring farms.

Furthermore, the department has also previously outlined that there must be “no evidence” of the within-herd spread of TB – as such, a feedlot herd “poses minimal risk” of infecting other cattle because of effective isolation from other herds.

At this stage, we think that an independent review is required, the minister should commission it and publish it as quickly as possible. He should consider an interim report if necessary.

“We badly need to ascertain the full facts here – because it’s looking increasingly likely that the numbers off feedlots are being used strategically to dictate wider cattle prices.

“That puts a question mark over their purpose as far as the ICMSA is concerned.

“We’d be looking very closely at the numbers quoted as coming off feedlots which seem a little vague to us,” McCormack concluded.