An MEP has weighed in on the controversy over comments made on dairy beef by Teagasc director Gerry Boyle.

Following a meeting with Connacht and Galway Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) representatives in Athenry, Midlands-North West MEP Chris MacManus said he “rejects the notion that the suckler model should be abandoned and all beef farmers need to move to a dairy beef system”.

The Sinn Féin MEP’s comments come as part of a backlash to the comments from Boyle, who suggested last week that there would be a “shift” in the beef sector towards dairy beef.

The Teagasc director noted that beef cow numbers have been declining since the abolition of dairy quotas.

“We think the biggest potential shift that could take place is actually in the beef sector. A shift to what we call dairy beef… The policy issues seem to me to be clear. If activity levels have to be reduced, then policy has to address how we can intervene to manage the trajectories,” Boyle said.

Responding to this, MacManus said: “Many beef farmers in my constituency are disappointed with the remarks made by Prof. Boyle.

“In my view, the products are different and both should have a place on supermarket shelves. The low-carbon suckler production model is designed to have minimal impacts on soil health, water quality, air quality and biodiversity, while delivering beef grades of the highest quality,” the MEP argued.

“This is a product that is in demand in European markets and is suited to the land conditions of my constituency. The sector has been the lifeblood of rural communities for generations, and with time comes experience.”

“The dairy beef system will be a potential option for some farmers but it is not a panacea,” he remarked.

MacManus argued there were “more sensible” solutions to meeting climate targets, saying: “The collapsing of the suckler sector to focus on servicing the dairy sector is not the solution. EU consumers will still be demanding a premium beef product, that currently the suckler sector provides, and someone will fill that gap.

“One avenue to have an impact on emissions is by the provision of greater information on the carbon footprint of the production model used…facilitating consumers to choose the low carbon, grass-fed, model over imports.

“Every sector must play its part and no one measure will deliver the radical transformation required, but I am convinced the suckler beef sector deserves a future and can be sustainable,” he concluded.