The second part of the Teagasc Virtual Beef Conference 2021 took place online on Wednesday, December 8.

At the event, the beef enterprise leader at Teagasc Grange Research Centre, Dr. Paul Crosson, explained how the emissions of cows from both the beef and dairy herd are allocated.

He outlined: “We allocate the emissions of the cow based typically on the economic output of that animal.

“So on the beef scenario [sucklers], all of the emissions from the cow are allocated to beef – either to cull beef or to the cow’s progeny’s beef.”

However, Crossan added: “In the case of a dairy-beef scenario, the cow has both milk-product output and beef-product output, so we have to allocate the emissions to both.

“There are a number of different ways [to do this] but the most common way is to allocate it on an economic basis, so the value of meat produced compared with the value of milk produced,” he explained.

“In this case, normally 85-90% of the emissions are allocated to milk which is the primary output and the remainder (10-15%) is allocated to the calf and to the beef produced in that system.”

Weighing in on the matter, Teagasc’s director Prof. Frank O’Mara outlined: “It’s a question that often comes up: ‘Dairy beef vs. suckler beef, which is the most carbon efficient?'”

Giving his view, O’Mara said: “I don’t think it’s the right question to be asking. I think we have to find ways of producing both [suckler and dairy beef] efficiently, profitably and with less carbon.

“It’s not one vs. the other, both have a part to play in the Irish beef industry.”

Commenting on current trends in beef production, head of Teagasc’s rural economy, Dr. Kevin Hanrahan outlined: “We have seen an increase in the supply of beef out of the dairy herd and I think that over time, the ratio of [suckler] beef progeny to the progeny from the dairy herd is going to shift more towards the dairy herd.”

Giving a brief synopsis of the Teagasc outlook for the beef sector, Hanrahan explained: “Prices for finished cattle increased this year but, despite this, cattle finishers maintained their income.

“They didn’t see an improvement because coupled payments that were there last year weren’t there this year, because prices were relatively good,” according to Hanrahan.

“Beef farmers got better prices but also paid higher prices for inputs – feed and fertiliser,” he said.

“Higher costs of production offset some of the gain that farmers would have achieved.”

Concluding, Hanrahan outlined: “As we look to next year, headwinds are much stronger but we don’t think there will be dramatic changes in the price of cattle at a global level – supply is quite tight.”