‘Stock number issues need to be solved at birth, not near finishing’ – Dermot Kelleher

The issue of reducing stock numbers in order to aid the environment needs to start at that birth of the calf, not when the animal is near finishing, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) president Dermot Kelleher.

Speaking with AgriLand this week about the debate surrounding the 5% reduction of bovine livestock manure nitrogen as part of the BEAM (Beef Emergency Aid Measure) scheme, Kelleher spoke about how there are some flaws in how the government structured the scheme.

Last evening (Wednesday, February 3), it was revealed that farmers who are currently on track to meet the 5% livestock manure nitrogen reduction requirement under the BEAM scheme by the end of the original reference period, will not need to adhere to the new reference period.

Also Read: Farmers to be given choice on BEAM reference period

Speaking about the scheme in general, Kelleher stated:

“If the concern is based on a reduction of stock numbers to aid and benefit the environment, would it not make more sense to focus on the large number of dairy births due to the expansion of the sector?

“I have no issue with the dairy farmer milking their cows and making money, but from a government point of view, why are they targeting the full reduction solely on the beef finishers?

Some beef farmers are only taking the by-product from the dairy herd and trying to make a living from their cattle.

“If the cattle are in front of the farmer to buy, but due to the BEAM scheme’s 5% reduction [of bovine livestock manure nitrogen] they can’t purchase them – it means that both the farmer selling his animals and the farmer buying cattle will be affected.”

Kelleher added:

There is no point in trying to reduce production at the end of the finishing line, you must stop it at the start.

“If they [the government] want to resolve this issue they need to be looking at the source and the birth of calves coming from the dairy herd, not when the animal is close to finishing.”

Current beef trade

With beef prices taking a slight dip of 5c/kg in some plants this week, AgriLand asked Kelleher his opinion as to why this reduction is occurring now. He explained:

“It may be a case where factories know that there is going to have to be a reduction of cattle on some farms with the BEAM scheme.

“Then there are some factories planning to work off a three-day-a-week kill.

“So, between the reduced kill and the reduction required on some farms, the factories could be using this as a good way of cutting prices and reducing quotes offered to farmers,” Dermot concluded.