ICOS, the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society, has called on Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith to protect and maintain the national suckler cow welfare scheme and disadvantaged area payments in the forthcoming budget.
It said the objectives of the suckler scheme are to improve welfare standards for animals and to improve the overall genetic quality and performance of the national suckler herd.
ICOS said that from an economic perspective, the disadvantaged areas scheme is particularly significant, contributing to the support of more than 100,000 Irish farm families, whose ability to farm is restricted by the physical environment including the impact of the wet, cold climatic conditions in Ireland.
Michael Spellman, ICOS Marts Committee chairman, said both schemes have a significant role to play in the promotion of Ireland’s indigenous food industry and our international reputation as the quality food island.
“Over 50% of all Irish cattle are currently derived from the beef suckler herd. About 55,000 farmers are involved in the suckler cow welfare representing some 750,000 cows.
“This has resulted in major strides forward in terms of welfare, performance, quality and a reduction in diseases and treatments.
“Livestock marts, live exports, consumers and the reputation of Irish meat abroad have all benefited,” he said.
Mr Spellman said the minister must safeguard the suckler welfare scheme and the disadvantaged areas payments in the upcoming budget.
Not doing so would result in the demise of beef herds and the rural community for no real savings at all.
“The evidence we see coming from many marts at the moment is that dry cow sales are substantially up on 2008 figures.
“Many marts have indicated a 10-20% increase in dry cow sales which will have a detrimental effect on future calf births and the national herd.
“The suckler herd has already contracted by 6% this year, and if this trend continues we will have a greatly diminished beef industry in the years ahead,” he said.
Mr Spellman said the success and results achieved by the suckler cow scheme provide a unique point of difference for the Irish beef production sector at home and abroad.
“It would be most regrettable if these achievements were to be diminished by a short-term perspective on the currently successful schemes,” he said.
ICOS represents over 150 co-operative businesses and organisations with a combined 150,000 individual members, 12,000 employees in Ireland and overall business turnover of some €10 billion.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved