‘Suckler cows are keeping people in jobs in rural Ireland’

Suckler cows are keeping people in jobs in rural Ireland, according to Peadar Glennon from the Irish Simmental Cattle Society (ISCS).

Glennon made the comment at a recent meeting organised by the Irish Farm-Family Rights Group, also known as the Farm Rights Group (FRG).

This was a common belief held by the majority of farmers, mart managers, cattle traders and representatives from the beef breed societies present at the meeting – which was attended by between 150 and 200 people.

It was argued that suckler cows have kept the social fabric of rural Ireland intact and that a continued reduction in suckler cow numbers would drive people towards urban areas and lead to bigger farms – with small family farms losing out as a result.

The demise of the national suckler cow herd was the focus of the meeting – held in the Tullamore Court Hotel in Co. Offaly on Friday night, January 19.

Paul Sykes – from the Irish Limousin Cattle Society – stated that suckler cows keep small businesses in rural towns across Ireland “ticking”.

A payment of €300 per suckler cow was called for by the FRG on the night, in order to combat the current downward trajectory of the suckler sector – this motion was backed by everyone in attendance.

‘Suckler farmers need to stand up for themselves’

Alan O’Brien – a supporter of the FRG – called on other suckler farmers to “stand up for themselves”, as they outnumber dairy farmers by more than three to one.

Meanwhile, David Murphy from Co. Limerick claimed that for every euro produced from a suckler cow, a further €5 is put back into the local economy.

Murphy was also critical of the level of money spent on the administration of agricultural schemes, which diminishes the size of the funding pot that can be shared out among farmers.

He called for “complete transparency” regarding the financial breakdown of agricultural schemes, so as to clear up any misunderstandings of where the money in a scheme is actually going to.

The formation of schemes – namely the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) – was criticised at the meeting, with Murphy saying that the process of how the scheme was drawn up was “rushed” and that a more “common sense approach” is needed in future.

‘Total honesty’

The current state of the suckler cow sector is the worst crisis facing farmers in the last 10 years, according to Kevin Maguire from the Irish Charolais Cattle Society.

In order for the sector to turn a corner, he believes that there must be “total honesty” in the beef sector.

Maguire was of the opinion that both the dam and the sire of a calf should be noted on their passport going forward – rather than just the dam, as is the case at the moment.

“This is a way we could start promoting suckler beef, where a calf has spent 10 or 11 months on a cow. It should be promoted and sold as a premium product,” he said.