Contract rearing debate: ‘All we’re doing is giving another alternative’

Contract rearing offers drystock farmers another economic option to make their farms viable and they should not be denied that option, Des Morrison, livestock chair of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has stated.

Speaking during tonight’s episode of FarmLand, Morrison debated the pros and cons of drystock farmers – particularly in the west and north-west regions – contract rearing heifer calves from the dairy industry with independent TD for Roscommon-Galway, Michael Fitzmaurice.

Morrison weighed in on the steady income advantages for drystock farmers and labour solutions on the diary side; while Fitzmaurice outlined his concerns that short-term gains could result in long-term losses for the “suckler heartland“.

“The main advantages for the host farmer to start with is that farm incomes, as we know under the livestock end of it, are in decline.

I see contract rearing as a regular, sustainable income for the host farmer with no volatility except for the cost. They know exactly how much they are getting per week from the diary farmer in question.

“I also see a big advantage in that the investment in this type of cattle rearing is very minimal because they haven’t the raw material to buy.

“Not like a farmer going out in springtime of the year, purchasing a store animal for say €1,000 and selling it for €1,100, or selling it at a loss, with what is happening with the beef prices this year.”

Dairy pros

He also highlighted the benefits on the dairy side.

“Labour is in very short supply for dairy farmers, so the dairy farmer is offloading some of his stock to the host farmer on a contractual arrangement and that gives the dairy farmer more flexibility on his, or her, home farm to produce more.

“All we are doing is giving people another alternative, another economic option to make their farm viable and it begs me to see why anyone would not want to give the farmers of Ireland that option,” Morrison said.