Recent months have seen a number of farming organisations call for the introduction of bespoke suckler cow support payments.

However, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) president Pat McCormack believes that this principle should be extended to every Irish cow.

“All cows, suckler and dairy, produce the same amount of slurry, methane, ammonia. So why discriminate one from the other?” he said.

Farmgate prices

McCormack believes that Irish beef farmers need to be supported effectively.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack

He told Agriland: “The best way to achieve this is to deliver meaningful farmgate prices. For too long, Irish producer prices have not kept up with inflation or the increased costs of production that farmers are incurring.

“This state of affairs must be changed. It’s unlikely that young people will commit to a career in production agriculture unless they are pretty certain of being able to develop a sustainable career for themselves.”

McCormack confirmed that Britain will remain the main market for Irish beef. However, he is not unduly concerned about the possible impact on the Irish beef industry of a free trade between the UK and Australia.

“British consumers do not view Irish beef as a threat. In fact, many will recollect that Irish beef was available in the quantities required at the time of the BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) crisis,” McCormack said.

“However, it is important that Bord Bia increases its marketing activity over the coming months, in order to remind UK consumers of the fact that Irish beef is continually available to them.

“There is also a fundamental requirement to open up as many export markets for Irish beef as possible. Regaining access to China is very important in this regard.

“I hope the good news that Ireland has received over recent days, from a BSE perspective, will help make the case to Bejing that little bit easier.”

Looking ahead

McCormack believes that dairy-bred beef will become an increasingly important component of production agriculture in Ireland.

“EBI must be used to develop better quality beef animals that can be sourced from dairy herds,” he stressed.

“However, we also need to see significant breeding improvements effected within the suckler sector.”

Looking ahead, McCormack believes that Irish agriculture can look forward to a very positive future.

“Producing milk and beef from grazed grass on a sustainable basis is our ace card,” he said.

“But farmers must be paid realistic prices if they are to remain in business. There must also be a greater recognition across society that farmers do a lot more that put in a 39-hour week.”