Proposals to amend nutrient excretion rates have been opposed by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA).

ICSA beef chair John Cleary has voiced his disapproval of the proposal to reduce the nutrient excretion rates of heifers while increasing the rates for male cattle as part of the interim review of the Nitrates Action Programme.

Cleary said: “As an organisation representing drystock farmers we believe these changes are fundamentally unfair and biased.

It appears to us to be no more than a deliberate manoeuvre to skew nitrates data in favour of one sector at the expense of another,” he added.

Cleary said the proposed increase in excretion rates for male cattle aged one-to-two years effectively penalises farmers who rear these cattle.

The ICSA beef chair said: “Increasing the excretion rates for males from their current value of 57kg N/year to 61kg N/year means a drystock farmer would have to reduce the number of males they keep by almost 7%.

“That is a big hit to stocking density on beef farms and by extension a big hit on their already low incomes.

“In our view, simultaneously reducing the excretion rate for heifers to 55kg N/year represents a calculated and underhanded attack on the drystock sector,” he added.

The interim review of the Nitrates Action Plan is being conducted by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Housing, Darragh O’Brien and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue.

The review will take place over the coming months, however, in the meantime farmers are being advised that certain adjustments, including the changes to the excretion rates, are intended to apply for 2024.

Cleary said: “This move is a real blow to suckler farmers and beef finishers alike. It also means that while on the one hand these farmers are being asked to take on dairy beef males, on the other hand they are being asked to keep less.

“It is worth noting too that there are no financial supports available for these farmers to take on dairy beef males and that these are also the farmers that have been hit the hardest with CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] payment cuts.

“Amending the nutrient excretion rates in this way will only serve to further undermine the future viability of these enterprises,” Cleary said.


Meanwhile, ICSA’s Life Focus group will host a farmer gathering tomorrow (Sunday April 14) at the Castletown Geoghegan Community Hall in Castletown Geoghegan, Co. Westmeath at 7:30p.m.

Chair of ICSA Life Focus, Mona O’Donoghue Concannon said: “Farmers are under a lot of pressure at the moment, and we want to provide a place for farmers to gather and discuss the current difficulties they are facing due to the persistent wet weather.

“A problem shared is a problem halved, so we are inviting all farmers to come along and share their experiences,” she added.

In response to the increasing awareness of mental health challenges in the farming community, a group of ICSA farmers united to establish ICSA Life Focus.

This group has collectively encountered a wide range of problems and situations that can arise throughout a farming lifetime.

ICSA’s Life Focus provides support and understanding on various issues including farm succession, marriage breakdown, parent alienation, family disputes, mental health, rural isolation, farm finances, and banking issues.

“The guiding principle of the group is that tough times do not have to be faced alone. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out,” O’Donoghue Concannon said.