‘No joined-up thinking’: Farmer reservations to mooted early slaughter premium

Severe reservations have been expressed regarding any “early slaughter premium” by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

These reservations were brought up in response to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed expressing an openness to considering the introduction of such a premium as a possible solution to suckler viability.

Also Read: Creed hints at ‘early slaughter premium’ to support sucklers

ICSA president Patrick Kent gave a sceptical response to the suggestion, given as a means of keeping suckler numbers up.

“Slaughter premia have been tried before and all they do is give a subsidy to meat factories and consumers,” he said.

“People forget that beef price during the coupled payments era was stuck at €2.50/kg. At the moment beef price is €4.20 for Rs and rising, and under-16-month bulls are being bought on the grid so they can fetch over €4.40 for top U grades.”

I suspect that the meat industry is behind this as it is looking at scarcity, increased opportunities for exports to China and live exports.

“The meat industry would love a slice of farmers’ existing Pillar I payments as a means of keeping a lid on prices,” Kent said.

“We also must question whether a slaughter premium focused on early slaughter is compatible with claiming that we are selling grass fed beef?”

There is no joined-up thinking here, Kent claimed.

This, the president said, is pushing beef finishing down an intensive, high-cost system which will suit a few large-scale feedlots.

Instead of using grass, we will be taking some of the CAP money to pay for imported cereals. How can this be sustainable?

“How can we claim we are selling grass-fed beef if we use diminishing CAP funds to subsidise intensive cereal based systems?” Kent asked.

The present said that, worst of all, such a proposal would provide unfair competition for live exports to markets such as Turkey.

“Anything which damages live exports is not in the interest of the suckler sector. We need competition between Irish finishers and live exporters – but this must be based on factories paying a decent bonus for heavy U grade carcasses.

Above all, we must ensure that the maximum number of calves and weanlings are shipped out of Ireland. A gimmicky slaughter premium will do nothing to help this.

The ICSA would also be concerned that an early slaughter premium would be used to support dairy-bred bull beef, when the only place for them is veal units in Europe, the organisation said.