Beef farmers must look at the figures and resassess

There’s a definite two-speed agriculture happening in Ireland at the moment and beef is in reverse.

It’s six weeks since the beef summit meeting took place in Dublin Castle, which signed off with a seven-point plan being implemented. The plan is still a work in progress as to-date there has been no change for beef farmers.

For many, the writing was put firmly on the wall this week when Teagasc released its National Farm Survey preliminary estimates for 2013. The figures show that incomes on cattle rearing farms saw a 22% reduction on 2012. It’s depressing to see that 107% of the income in cattle rearing enterprises comes from the Single Farm Payment. So, not only is cattle rearing not breaking even on most farms, it’s eating into the Single Farm Payment. By comparison, only 26% of the income on dairy farms comes from the Single Farm Payment.

According to the Teagasc figures, cattle rearing family farm incomes declined by 22% due to higher costs of production and the average income on these farms was €9,469, while the Single Farm Payment on these farms accoutned €10,118. 

It’s high time farmers involved in cattle systems really looked at their books and their stocking levels. Clearly, for most farmers it doesn’t make sense to keep the level of cattle they currently do, as the cost of keeping them is literally eating into the Single Farm Payment. There is, quite simply, too much reliance on the Single Farm Payment in beef production. And, if the 7-point plan stemming from the beef summit doesn’t deliver a better return for farmers in the market, it’s time for them to reassess and exit beef production.