‘Suckler-bred animals are not getting the bonus they deserve’

It is now time to move into the 21st century and prepare to replace the grid system with payment on meat yield, according to ICSA (Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association) President, Patrick Kent.

“The grading machines at meat plants are now outdated, as has been highlighted by Dr. Paul Allen at the recent ICOMST (International Congress of Meat Science and Technology) conference in Cork,” Kent said.

Payment on meat yield is the single most important strategy that could reinvigorate the struggling suckler sector, he added. If we want sucklers, we need to deliver prices that reflect the cost of the system, president said.

Suckler-bred animals are not getting the bonus that they deserve under the current system, he stressed.

More importantly, farmer trust in the grid system continues to be a major issue, according to the ICSA.

Meat yield payment, using modern digital technology, should result in the farmer getting a price in closer alignment with what is sold on the shelf.

The reality, claims the group, is that competitor beef-exporting nations – such as Australia – are also moving in this direction. A changeover will take time and will need EU approval, but now is the time to begin the debate, the ICSA argues.

“The ICSA is calling for payment on meat yield to move centre stage at the beef forum. We are also looking for the beef breed societies to contribute to this debate,” Kent said.

Meanwhile, the ICSA’s Suckler Chairman, John Halley, said that suckler farmers have been looking for a signal that there is a future for their sector.

“Suckler farming cannot survive under a system where meat yield is not fully reflected and where weight and age are used to penalise quality animals.

“Schemes such as the BDGP (Beef Data and Genomics Programme) are not enough to tackle the issue of low incomes in suckling.

The bottom line for most farmers is that they want a fair return from the marketplace.

“This is one important step, but we also need transparency regarding who gets what margin at producer, processor and retailer level,” he concluded.