ICSA (Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association) President Patrick Kent met the North’s Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill in Wexford today to ascertain if ways could be found to remove the ‘nomad’ classification now given to store cattle from the Republic of Ireland once they are moved cross border.

As a consequence of this classification, the animals lose their traceability criteria, thereby rendering them totally unattractive as a purchasing proposition to Northern buyers.

Mr Kent told Agriland that the meeting was extremely constructive and represented the beginning of a dialogue which would involve further discussions on a number of issues.

“These include the need to enhance the levels of live cattle exports, the current quality payment schemes, the role of the factories, the need to improve cattle prices and the increasing bureaucracy associated with farming on both parts of the island,” he added.

The ICSA President confirmed that Michelle O’Neill had highlighted the feasibility of developing an All-Ireland beef labelling system.

“In principle, we would agree with this approach, provided it would not be abused. But labels count for nothing if the quality of the beef is not up to standard. And, in this context we stressed the need to ensure that the quality of the suckler herd, North and South, is not diminished during the period ahead.

“Michelle O’Neill was strongly of the view that animal health regulations and standards must be harmonised throughout the island. This is a principle that ICSA fully endorses.

“But, here again, the level of associated bureaucracy needs to be reduced. For example, ICSA holds firmly to the view that there is no need for cattle to be pre-movement tested for TB, if they are being shipped to the Continent.”

Commenting on the reported rise in beef prices this week, Patrick Kent said that it was all too little too late. “Winter finishers have lost considerable sums of money over the past number of months, which they will never recoup. This week’s drop in lamb prices is equally disappointing. Yes the market normally falls at this time of the year. But there is no justification for the cuts imposed by the factories this week.”