As a suckler farmer in West Cork, is it time for me to say goodbye to my suckler herd, having built it up for over 35 years.
This would be devastating for me. I have cut my costs as much as I can, have been using AI for over 25 years to produce very efficient animals, and am keeping my carbon footprint as low as I can, but the future does not look bright, with low beef prices, and Mercosur and Brexit coming down the tracks.
The average income for suckler farmers in 2018 was €8,350, including the single farm payment, which amounts to €160 per week.
If a farmers works a 40-hour week, he gets €4 per hour, less than half the minimum wage, this is a shocking state of affairs.
Now, we have the €100m bailout coming to compenste farmers for poor beef prices. If this is divided equally between all beef farmers, they will each receive a payment of around €1,200, this amounts to an extra €23 per week, or an extra 58 cent an hour for a 40-hour week.
Farmers will increase their hourly rate from €4 to €4.58 per hour, and this is supposed to save us, what a joke!
Our costs are way out of line, so we have no hope of competing with South American beef.
What are our options?
Beef farmers will not stay farming, and rural Ireland will be decimated, you can’t expect farmers to work for nothing.
All the stakeholders will have to get together for a road map for the future of beef farming, and the farmer will have to get a proper margin.
We have to produce beef in a carbon-friendly way, we must have the lowest carbon footprint for beef in the world, so we should get a premium for this beef.
The environment has to be Number 1.
Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture have to work out which beef farming methods gives us the lowest carbon footprint.
Can suckler cows produce beef with a low carbon footprint and leave the farmer with a profit?
Can dairy beef which is flooding the market be finished profitably, first, and then, in a low carbon friendly way?
We have to cut beef production, but how do we do this?
Do suckler cows have to go or be reduced drastically, or do we export a huge amount of dairy beef calves?
Will beef farmers have to change to other types of farming, contract rearing, growing energy crops, or plant some of their farm with trees?
Is it time for CAP to be paid for environmentally friendly farming, and for beef with a low carbon footprint?
Everything has to be looked at, because beef farming as we know it is finished. Let’s hope, with less animals and more grass based systems, we can produce beef with the lowest carbon footprint, and get properly paid for it, and that efficient suckler cows are part of this plan.
The consumer then has to choose whether to buy beef with a low carbon footprint, with full traceability, or buy cheap South American beef with no traceability and a bad carbon footprint, with no regard for the environment.
The Mercosur deal is a sell-out of Irish beef farmers.
All farm organisations and everyone in rural Ireland are welcome to join the Beef Plan protest against Mercosur at Dáil Éireann, on Wednesday, July 10, at 11:30 am.