Prepare to cut back your herd: ICSA

THERE is no point in keeping cattle for current beef prices, said Malcolm Thompson, president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association at ICSA's AGM last week.

He said ICSA will urge farmers to cut production by at least 10%, either through planting the worst 10% of the farm or by cutting back on stock numbers, becoming less intensive and joining REPS, unless 2005 brings a substantial and sustained price rise.

Most farmers are tending to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

Most have decided to concentrate on establishing their entitlements in 2005, few have decided on radical change, but all are utterly frustrated and annoyed at the current last kick in the teeth that is being delivered on today's beef price.

In 1988, farmers got £1.18 for beef, and it didn't matter what age the beast was; today the price is 83p for the over 30 month R4L animal.

While premia are used to discredit that comparison, in two weeks' time that comparison will once again become entirely valid.

"We can't have the beef of high quality suckler animals cross subsidising the beef of a Holstein steer", he told ICSA members (who include half of all suckler farmers with more than 40 cows).

"Let's not forget that in a de-coupled environment, the dairy cow will earn €1,250 before the value of the calf is taken into account. As I said, I would prefer if that dairy cow could earn even more from her milk. But, and this is the big but, the suckler cow is now earning absolutely nothing except the value of her calf, and that calf may well die of scour or pneumonia."

"The suckler calf has to be worth substantially more than the dairy store, if there are to be any suckler farmers left in a few years", said Mr Thompson.

On marketing, he said consumers across Europe must perceive Irish beef as a different product to untraceable Brazilian beef, and Ireland should develop its green image by adopting a GM free island strategy.

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Karen Walsh

Karen Walsh

Law of the Land

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