‘Holstein blood is infiltrating the Irish suckler herd’

An Irish cattle exporter recently stated that “Holstein blood is infiltrating the Irish suckler herd” as a result of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP).

Hubert Maxwell made the comment at a meeting held in Co. Leitrim on Thursday, July 27. The meeting was organised by Shane Ellis – who is to contest the next general election as a Fianna Fail candidate – in order to discuss concerns regarding the BDGP scheme.

The meeting was attended by a number of farmers, as well as representatives from different breed societies and farm organisations. BDGP: ‘Farmers are maybe losing €200 on the sale price of their weanling to get €80’

AgriLand was at the event to get the attendees’ opinions on the effectiveness of the BDGP scheme.

Hubert Maxwell

Hubert Maxwell is an Irish cattle exporter based in Co. Roscommon.

Maxwell Livestock exports cattle to a range of countries on the continent, as well as some third countries, Hubert explained.

With regards to the BDGP scheme, he believes that it is bringing the national suckler herd in the wrong direction.

Holstein blood is infiltrating the suckler herd – and it was never intended to do that.

“The quality of the beef cattle in marts is dropping, dropping, dropping,” Hubert said.

Highlighting the good work carried out by Irish breeders in the past, he added: “We spent many, many years trying to improve breeds of cattle in Ireland – and we did it; but now it’s going to be eroded if something is not done about the BDGP scheme.”

John Moran

Another person who attended the meeting on the night was John Moran, who is a suckler and hill sheep farmer from Newport in Co. Mayo.

He believes that the BDGP scheme is not working in its current format.

Giving his opinion on the scheme, John said: “The BDGP is not recognising farmers that are producing the beef weanling.

People coming to the marts in the west of Ireland come to buy a quality beef animal.

Speaking with AgriLand, he outlined the average suckler herd size in his area would be between six and eight cows.

Running a herd of Limousin cross cows, John currently owns a Charolais bull.

Continuing, he added that he was relatively happy with the return from his weanlings. He stated that he received an average price of €850 for weanlings – which were born in April or May of last year – in November 2017.

Commenting on why he has not joined the BDGP scheme, John said: “The scheme suggests that I have to change my cows and get cows with higher stars.

“My star is the calf the day I sell him,” he stressed.

The farmer – whose local mart is located in Balla, Co. Mayo – also noted that there is a “lighter breed of cattle” going through marts in the last number of years.

Mary Rooney

Meanwhile, Mary Rooney – who is the chair of the Irish Natura Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) for Leitrim and west Cavan – also attended the recent meeting in Carrick-on-Shannon.

Running a suckler and sheep enterprise outside Manorhamilton in Co. Leitrim, Mary shares concerns that the BDGP scheme is “not working“.

She feels that it is promoting the wrong type of cattle and reducing quality in the suckler herd.

So many farmers around us chose not to get involved in the BDGP.

Continuing, Mary outlined that she has noticed “an awful lot more suckler cows being flogged off” in her local marts of Manorhamilton and Dowra.