Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has been urged by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) to take action on an “anti-suckler narrative”.

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher urged the minister to tackle “this anti-suckler narrative that has infected state, and state sponsored agencies”.

This, he said, should be done by “taking a firm decision to include a coupled suckler support on top of reinvigorated BDGP [Beef Data and Genomics Programme] and BEEP [Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme] schemes in line with the ICSA CAP strategy proposals”.

Elaborating, Kelleher said:

“The minister needs to move sooner rather than later to ease the growing anger among suckler farmers all over the country.

“RTE platforming plant-based fake burgers and the Climate Change Advisory Council being openly hostile to sucklers is bad enough; but would you blame suckler farmers for feeling paranoid when it now seems that Teagasc is against them as well?” the president asked.

Referencing comments backing dairy beef made by Teagasc director Gerry Boyle last week and the subsequent backlash, Kelleher said:

“Teagasc cannot continue with an agenda of encouraging suckler farmers to sell their cows and rear badly bred dairy calves instead.

“Teagasc should start by confronting the reality that the dairy herd focus on milk solids to the detriment of all other traits is not the suckler farmer’s problem.

“It is simply not economically sustainable to rear Jersey and Kiwi cross calves for beef and no amount of dressing up systems with high-stocking rates is going to change that.”

Kelleher said: “The minister needs to acknowledge that suckler farming is the logical system for many farmers on fragmented and smaller holdings.”

He added that such farming may be combined with off-farm income in some cases.

“More importantly, suckler bred beef is the most environmentally friendly, and the most animal welfare friendly system – and this must be marketed by Bord Bia and beef factories under a premium brand,” he maintained.

“We need a coherent approach to fight the militant vegan agenda, backed by big businesses that have invested billions in fake alternatives to natural meat.

“But the immediate task must be to put a stop to the anti-suckler narrative and ICSA is calling on the Minister to fully adopt the ICSA proposals on sucklers in the national CAP plan.”