With milk quotas just weeks away from being abolished, President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association Patrick Kent has said that now is the time for drystock farmers to take stock.

Speaking at the official opening of the Glanbia nutritional ingredients facility at Belview, Kent asked if beef and sheep farmers should continue with loss-making enterprises or should they look at collaborating with dairy farms through partnerships or contract rearing?

“The ending of quotas means a levelling of the playing field, which will provide opportunities for expansion and new entrants into dairying.

“This will be a positive thing for many but there are also risks. Income volatility in dairying carries a serious risk for the new generation of dairy farmers, especially those with high levels of borrowing,” the ICSA president warned.

According to Kent all drystock farmers should re-examine their future plans.

“We have seen how meat factories and retailers have consistently failed to deliver a viable living for cattle and sheep farmers,” he said.

The ICSA President said that the removal of milk quotas was undoubtedly one of the most significant moments in Irish agriculture since EU entry in 1973.

“ICSA was the first farm organisation to call for a freeing-up of the milk quota system almost ten years ago, when we argued that it was no longer acceptable that the sons and daughters of cattle and sheep farmers could not aspire to entering dairying,” Kent said.

Milk quotas, he said, represented the single greatest source of inequality in Irish agriculture and certainly drove a whole generation of young farmers away from full-time farming.