2020 may be a watershed year for beef production in Ireland.
Next October sees the completion of the first BDGP scheme and, with very long delays on any CAP reform, it may well be the case that there is no replacement scheme for those involved in the current one.
GLAS may be in the same boat!
With the current beef climate, it is anticipated that the end of the BDGP for many suckler farmers may also accelerate the reduction in the national herd.
I have recently spoken to a few pedigree beef breeders who tell me that sales of bulls for next spring’s breeding season have been unusually slow.
Many suckler herdowners buy bulls well in advance of them going to work, but this seems not to be happening right now.
If you intend to use a stock bull next spring, the right thing to do is still to get any new bull onto your farm well in advance of the breeding season.
That way, the bull can settle in and acclimatise to the disease pressures and environment unique to your farm.
You can then take control of his parasite control and vaccinations.
This year can only be described as another extremely difficult year for Irish beef producers.
When I attempted last December to predict what 2019 had in store for us, I couldn’t have foreseen how bad it could get.
For the whole year, prices for finished cattle, stores and weanlings have been very poor, which has hugely eroded farm incomes, yet again.
Processors and retailers have way too much control in our industry and, as a result, we have seen constant unrest since the summer.
The large multiple retailers continue to treat Irish beef producers with contempt by coaxing consumers into their stores with below cost selling of our quality beef.
We are not even close to being in the same ball-park on price versus our EU and UK counterparts.
Legislators must implement a groceries order, preventing below cost selling.
It must gall every farmer to hear the TV and radio ads leading with half-price and one-third-off meat offers, day after day.
The retailer doesn’t take the hit for this discounting!
I can’t predict that the next decade will be known as the roaring 20s for beef producers, all I know is that we are entering more challenging times, and our consumers, and retailers, had better appreciate us soon, before we are gone! There are markets out there for our produce, and all we ask for is a fair and equitable proportion of our animals’ value at sale.
Of course, there is lots that can be done around our own farmyards to help control costs and improve productivity, but the sales price of our cattle is the biggest strain on our bottom line.
It is, I am sure, of great frustration to many of you to see the farm organisations constantly having a go at each other, when unity is what is required right now. We have seen new bodies appear over the last 12 to 18 months, but they have done nothing to instil confidence in them.
It seems that some of them are full of egos, and have become self-preservation societies.
The message from grassroots farmers is, “get your acts together or, get lost”. We also need to stop blaming other enterprises for the beef price, and stand together.
All farm enterprises need to stand together, we need each other for survival.
As this is my last beef article for 2019, I would like to wish all readers a very happy Christmas and a prosperous 2020. Thank you for all the feedback, both positive and negative, via email and when we meet at shows and on farms.
It is much appreciated.