Mixed reactions to ICBF contribution agreement

Beef and suckler farmers should be consulted before Ireland settles on a breeding strategy based upon the New Zealand model, says ICSA suckler chairman John Halley.

The ICSA wants a debate on breeding strategy to take place before November 1, the start date for a new 38c contribution on the sale of cattle tags, from approved tag suppliers, toward the funding of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF).

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has made an agreement with approved cattle tag supply companies to contribute 38c to ICBF on new tags from November 1.

He said this will help fund ICBF’s breeding research, which has delivered over €500m of extra profit to the industry overall.

Mr Creed said: “Economic Breeding Index has produced better milk solids and more fertile dairy herds. The Eurostars index has delivered improved both carcass weights and conformation to beef herds.

“Farmers have been the main beneficiaries of the ICBF’s work over the last 20 years. It is essential that farmers can steer the development of our national breeding programme and that the farmer-owned and controlled structure of the ICBF continues. The continued funding will allow farmers have a strong voice in cattle breeding.”

However, John Halley said it was unacceptable that the minister did not consult with ICSA on the decision to make this levy compulsory. He said a range of factors determine profitability in suckling, and said the focus on weight gain must be balanced against price/kg. Both factors must be balanced with cow calving interval and numbers of live calves weaned.

“We need a debate to be able to question the new dogma in dairy breeding which completely devalues the beef merit of the calf in favour of a low maintenance small cow that calves within a six-week period and produces high fat and protein,” said Mr Halley.

“The strategy for dairy breeding is entirely in keeping with New Zealand farming models where the bull calves are killed at birth.”

Mr Halley said the ICSA is excluded from decision- making at ICBF board level, while beef breed societies are also under-represented.

“The development of intellectual property from the data supplied by farmers is looking like an increasingly important facet of the ICBF model and it is clear that how this is monetised is a matter for all farming representatives, not just some,” said Mr Halley.

IFA president, Joe Healy, welcomed the department’s agreement with ICBF and tag suppliers in relation to the funding of ICBF. He said the new 38c levy was a fair and proportional method of farmer funding for ICBF.

Mr Healy said that farmer involvement and ownership in the national breeding organisation ICBF is vital to drive strong independent breeding programmes which deliver the greatest possible genetic improvement for the commercial benefit of Irish farmers and also to maintain farmer control and ownership of the national data.

Meanwhile, Macra na Feirme has also welcomed the new 38c ICBF levy.

Macra president, James Healy, said: “For many young farmers, they have never operated in a farming enterprise without having access to key ICBF data when making vital breeding decisions. This agreement will, therefore, offer them much reassurance.

“ICBF has and will continue to play a pivotal role not only in the dairy and beef industry, but also in Ireland’s attempts to meet climate change targets.

“Data produced by ICBF complements farm profitability, improves milk processing, benefits cattle confirmation and furthers climate change mitigation efforts. This secure source of funding will ensure the contribution ICBF has made to agricultural sector will continue for years to come.”


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