Vox pop: Do dairy and beef farmers need to rebuild trust?

A key talking point that emerged at last week’s Teagasc National Dairy Conference in Killarney, Co. Kerry, was “the need for dairy farmers to rebuild relationships with beef farmers”.

The point was made by Pádraig French, the head of dairy research at Teagasc Moorepark, during his presentation ‘Building on the Best’ which looked at the evolution of the dairy sector, challenges ahead from a calf welfare, environment, emissions, labour and water-quality perspective and other areas.

He stated that “the most important thing” that dairy farmers need to do for next spring, is “they need to rebuild the trust and the relationship” with beef farmers.

He cautioned that “it is fundamental to our sustainability that beef farmers trust us with the calves they are getting”.

To find out what dairy farmers on the ground think of this message, AgriLand spoke to a number of attendees on two of the dairy conferences in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.

In the vox pop farmers were asked whether they believed beef and dairy farmer relations needed to be strengthened? And, if so, could they offer any suggestions on how to achieve this?

Many farmers agreed with French’s statement, with one farmer in particular stating: “I think he is right. I think they need to work more together rather than against each other.”

Continuing, she said: “The dairy farmer in a way just wants milk, but the beef farmer needs a product out of it and the dairy farmer needs to get rid of their bull calves.

“So I think if sexed semen worked better, then more beef semen could be used on dairy to produce a better calf for the beef farmer to try to finish,” she said.

Another farmer also supported the view saying: “I think it is definitely important. They do need each other to be able to rear the calves; and I suppose if they want a market within Ireland, then they need the beef farmer for that.

“They both want the same goal and I think they both need to realise that they are both working for the same thing. They both want sustainability, productivity and they both want profitability,” she said.

Answering the question regarding how dairy and beef farmers could become more integrated, she added:

“Obviously, today was a dairy conference and we have a beef conference as well, but maybe this should be a joint day. Maybe we could have a day where all the farmers come together,” she said.

‘We need to be together’

;Another farmer commented: “I suppose beef farmers can’t keep losing money, they aren’t going to stay in business and that is going to come back and affect us as dairy farmers – particularity when we are trying to get rid of calves.

“In general, we are probably going to have to work with the beef farmers and maybe rear the calves for an extra week or two, to allow them to make something or maybe give them to them for free.”

An additional farmer also empathised with beef farmers as the sector’s struggle over stagnant prices continues.

“We had a case where farmers went to the factory gates to get a better price and then came back and fought with each other. I don’t think that is good I think for the future, we need to be together.

“The big thing is beef price; if the confidence was there in terms of the beef price they would take the calves, but the confidence is just not there.”

Check out AgriLand‘s video above for all the farmers’ views…