Calls have been made for Teagasc and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, to immediately clarify its intentions regarding the development of a suckler research herd in Athenry.

Leading the call is ICSA national sheep chairman Paul Brady. He has has asked for reassurance that none of the lands currently used by Teagasc for sheep research would be utilised in this new project.

“Any diminution of the 567 acres occupied by Teagasc for sheep research as at 1st November 2013 would in my opinion be a seriously retrograde step,” he said.

“This is especially true in the wake of the closure of the Hill Sheep research centre in Leenane. Sheep farming needs particular encouragement, especially in view of the deficit of sheep meat in Europe. It is a farming enterprise which is particularly suited to Irish climatic conditions as lambs can be finished mainly on grass. Proper research is essential if this industry is to move forward in the most efficient way possible.”

According to Brady the ICSA welcomes the establishment of a suckler demonstration unit but it must question the suitability of the site.

“The land around Athenry is of a quality that would be most untypical of that occupied by traditional suckler herds in Ireland, and results gleaned would therefore be of little relevance or use to the vast majority of suckler farmers. I am now asking Teagasc and the Minister to clarify their intentions in relation to Athenry, and to consult with the stakeholders before making any decisions on the project,” he said.