The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has indicated today, Wednesday, May 22, that it “accepts” the Dairy Beef Index (DBI) presents an opportunity to improve the quality of the calf from the dairy herd – from a beef perspective.

DBI – progressed by ICBF and Teagasc – is touted as a breeding goal for Irish dairy and beef farmers to promote high-quality beef cattle bred from the dairy herd that are more sellable as calves and profitable at slaughter.

In a statement to AgriLand, ICMSA’s livestock committee chairman Des Morrison said the organisation needed to see meat processors “play ball” on the issue.

Morrison also pointed out that, if the processors did “match the efforts” dairy farmers were making on DBI, they would be “proactively supporting farmers endeavouring to improve their stock”.

“It’s quite clear that dairy farmers must – and should – utilise the DBI to produce better quality calves for beef production,” he continued.

“It is equally important that the efforts being made by dairy farmers to improve the beef breeding from their herds is recognised by meat processors through an improved price.”

Low price and Brexit

Meanwhile, the livestock chairman went on to say that the spring of 2019 had been an extremely difficult period for all farmers involved in beef production.

Morrison pointed out that the financial hit was felt by all back to dairy calf producers who, he added, “in many cases, took an extremely low price”.

The low price arose from Brexit as well as from other issues.

He added: “There had been a focus on encouraging dairy farmers to produce a better quality beef calf in 2020 and ICMSA would certainly be encouraging its members to use the DBI once they have their dairy replacement requirements met.”

‘Taking responsibility’

However, Morrison also cautioned about the “responsibility others bore as well” with regard to the matter.

“ICMSA believes that dairy farmers will respond, but I want to be very clear: There is also an onus on meat plants to respond accordingly,” he continued.

That response should be, firstly, through improved prices for beef and, secondly, to structure market specifications that facilitate rather than hinder and frustrate farmers.

“Any targets are going to have to be realistic given that over 71% of steers in 2018 were R- or below, meaning that even suckler beef was, in many cases, not making the base price set by the meat processors.”