Irish beef cow numbers to fall by a third over 10 years in ‘no-deal’ – Teagasc

The size of the Irish beef herd is set to decrease by about a third in the event of a no-deal scenario between the UK and EU, Teagasc has warned.

In a recent publication dealing with ammonia emissions, a no-deal situation come the end of this year – when the transition period ends – was classified by Teagasc as a ‘low-activity scenario’. In this case, third country tariffs will apply between the UK and EU.

This, according to Teagasc, will lead to a dramatic reduction in UK demand for Irish agri-food produce. This is because the tariffs that would be placed on Irish agri-food would be severe enough to suppress the demand from UK retailers.

As a result, Irish agri-food products that would normally go to Britain will instead be diverted to the far more competitive world market, bringing down farmgate prices for these products – with the beef sector being the most impacted.

The “significantly lower” levels of profitability in the sector coming from reduced farmgate prices will lead to a “accelerated contraction” in the Irish beef cow herd size, Teagasc predicts.

In this scenario, beef cow numbers will decline to around 686,000, representing a 32% decline relative to 2018.

Meanwhile, the dairy sector, which is less reliant on the UK market and international price competitiveness, will be somewhat more resilient to a no-deal.

Even in no-deal, dairy cow numbers are still projected to increase relative to 2018 levels, which reflects the assumed continued profitability of the sector in spite of a hard Brexit, Teagasc said.

Dairy cow numbers are estimated to reach around 1.5 million by 2030, a 10% increase compared to 2018. However, this increase is smaller than the projected increase if the current trading arrangements are applied in a ‘business as usual’ scenario.

The decrease in beef cow numbers will offset the increase in dairy cow numbers, so that the projected total cattle population will be around 6.6 million in 2030, a decrease of 9% on the 2018 level.