Beef Plan Movement (BPM) has said it will not accept any form of a cull or cap on Ireland’s suckler herd while all other sectors are allowed to continue, in what the organisation calls an “unfettered” manner.

The group has been responding to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan which is now open for public consultation.

The plan outlines a new ‘Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme’, which is designed to build on the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) and the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme (BEEP) to improve sustainability of the suckler herd, through improving “genetic merit”.

The programme will consist of two measures – ‘A’ and ‘B’ – operating on a five-year contract basis. The two measures will run in parallel, and a farmer can only participate in one or the other.

Measure A will be for farmers who were in BDGP on June 1, 2021, while measure B will be for farmers who were not in BDGP on that date or at all.

Emmanuel Ó Deá, a member of the BPM’s suckler committee, said:

“The vilification of the beef sector and, in particular, naturally reared cattle, has to stop.

“In 2011 Ireland had over one million suckler cows, at a time when agricultural emissions were below what is our committed 2030 level.

“Since then there has been a 15% reduction in the suckler herd and our agricultural emissions have escalated.”

Suckler stigma

Beef Plan Movement has said it was not involved in any consultation on the CAP Strategic Plan (CSP).

It has indicated its intention to find out what farm organisations were involved in the drafting of the plan and why “they saw fit to stigmatise the suckler sector further”.

According to BPM vice chair, John Moloney, the association has lobbied the government on many issues pertaining to beef farming and has entered several submissions on areas from climate to the reform of the CAP.

Moloney said: “However we find it disappointing that the government has not consulted with Ireland’s only dedicated beef group on this matter.

“In our opinion, capping or reducing our suckler herd simply does not make sense.

“The simple fact is that with one million suckler cows in the country in 2011, we were below our emissions targets for 2030.

“It is the move away from suckling which is causing an increase in our national emissions. The suckler herd is essential to the production of quality stock for our beef herd,” he added.

Dairy breeding

According to Moloney, less than 7% of the dairy breeding EBI is related to carcass traits, despite over 70% of the calves being destined for beef production.

He added: “We do not believe dairy cow numbers should be capped, as this distracts from the real issue which is stocking density. Every farm should be assessed on its own merits and intensity.

“Suckler farms tend to have a low stocking density and input usage, which is why there is little environmental sense in targeting the national suckler herd.

“Methane is a greenhouse gas [GHG] and is a contributing factor to global warming. The issue we have is there is no recognition of the fact that methane from livestock is recycled carbon,” he added.

“Grass removes carbon from both agriculture and industrial sources converting it to meat, milk, organic manure etc.

“We want recognition of this process as, at present. methane from livestock is treated no differently than carbon emissions from burning of fossil fuels,” he concluded.