The beef and suckler sector will continue to need financial support and protection, according to a new report by Ifac.
The Irish Farm Report 2022, which includes a survey of around 900 farmers, reveals that 44% of respondents have a positive outlook for the beef and suckler sector.
Almost 70% of beef farmers highlighted input costs as their biggest challenge, and 56% said farm financials were their biggest concern for 2022.
The survey revealed that 34% of farmers said that their business was not viable for the next generation, while a fifth were unsure if they will be farming in five years’ time.
A third of beef farmers are also struggling to balance their workload with an off-farm job.
Beef and suckler sector
Ifac stated that 2021 ended on a “largely positive note” for the over 80,000 beef and suckler farmers across the country due to rising output prices during the year.
The report noted that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) strategic plan will result in a higher reliance on environmental payments for the sector.
“To maintain profitability in the sector, farmers will need to look at all options under the next CAP programme with the aim of maximising income for environmental actions.
“This income will be needed to offset the loss of payments elsewhere, which are
likely to hit the beef sector hardest,” the document outlined.
Due to the focus on food security, Ifac said that European consumers are looking for high-quality nutritious food, which is produced to the highest welfare, health and environmental standards.
“Ireland is well placed to take advantage of the high demands placed on food production,” the report said.
Ifac noted that the increased cost of fertiliser and feed will place added pressure on an already low-margin sector.
It advised farmers, in whatever beef system they operate, to be even more wary of the costs of production and issues they can control inside the farm gate.
“Managing costs while maximising income from the farm will be key to the future of the beef and suckler sector.
“The rising cost of fertiliser compared to recent years means farmers in the sector will have to be more selective, more analytical and more cost driven than at any time in the past,” Ifac said.
The report noted that soil testing had risen up the priority list along with spreading lime and managing phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) use on farms.
Ifac urged farmers to focus on getting high-quality grazed grass and silage into their cattle’s diet to reduce the need for additional concentrate feed.
The report noted that the sector will continue to need direct payments; targeted sectoral payments; rewards for environmental actions; protection from unfair trading practices (UTP) and a margin to cover the cost of production.