The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has labelled speculation that the suckler herd will be sacrificed to maintain dairy cow numbers “an exaggeration” but said the organisation will not support an unfair Food Vision agreement.

In a statement, ICSA president Dermot Kelleher said that the Food Vision process must include supports for the suckler and beef finishing sectors, which are key components of Ireland’s export system.

In a statement, he said:

“ICSA is adamant that it will only support a final Food Vision agreement provided that the suckler, beef, and sheep sectors get fair play and that there is a strategy to allow expansion for those who want to.”

Kelleher said the beef finishing sector “got nothing” in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan and that it “has been hardest hit by the convergence of Pillar I payments”.

“The sector is also challenged by the ever-worsening beef merit in the dairy herd, and this will have to be addressed,” he said.

“In our view, this will require genotyping of all calves from the dairy herd destined for beef finishing.”

He also stated that the suckler herd will need more support as it provides the beef finishing sector with access to high-quality stock. Speaking about the suckler sector, Kelleher added:

“It is regrettable that the ICSA proposals for a coupled payment for sucklers in the CAP reform was not supported by any other farm organisation. However, ICSA is still fighting for extra support for the sector.”

“In any event, we all need to stand up for our livestock farming systems which are not the major cause of global warming that some commentators like to portray,” he said.

“The truth is that the suckler herd has already fallen in numbers, so it is simply not true to blame them when it comes to the climate targets.”

According to Kelleher, the organisation is currently engaging with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), in relation to allocations in the budget for this sector.