Message to Minister Cowen: Bring back the suckler cow subsidies of 25 years ago

Some say that our new Minister for Agriculture, Barry Cowen, mightn’t know that much about farming.
Message to Minister Cowen: Bring back the suckler cow subsidies of  25 years ago
At Macroom Mart last Saturday, this 500kg Angus bull born May 2019 sold for €1,240.
At Macroom Mart last Saturday, this 1005kg Limousin bull, born November 2015, sold for €1,720.
At Macroom Mart last Saturday, this 1005kg Limousin bull, born November 2015, sold for €1,720.

Some say that our new Minister for Agriculture, Barry Cowen, mightn’t know that much about farming.

Well, to hell with that talk, because too much knowledge can blinker a fellow.

A fresh pair of eyes is never a bad thing. Give the man a chance, for goodness sake. So-called experts in farming have been leading us astray for years.

It has also been said that his father worked as an undertaker (as well as being a TD, publican, and butcher), which to my mind makes him ideal for the role as minister.

With Irish farming on the last legs, who better than the son of an undertaker to spot the warning signs?

What farming, and beef farming in particular, needs right now is the kiss of life.

Minister Cowen might be the very man, not only to see this but to do something proactive about it.

The suckler cow is key to our success in beef farming. Look after the cow and the industry will flourish. And the best way to look after the cow is to ensure the farmer can afford to keep her.

A straightforward suckler cow subsidy similar to what we had on offer 25 years ago has never been more warranted. The suckler calves born back then took some beating.

Good cattle are always in demand, and if the farmer can be encouraged (as he was, years ago) to breed the best, we can become the best.

Staying with good cattle, and straight for the marts. Our new minister has hit the ground running, and so must we. We begin with Kanturk mart from where mart manager, Seamus O’Keeffe, gave us this report on Tuesday’s cattle sale.

“We had a smaller sale on Tuesday (Kanturk mart had 330 animals on offer, including 90 calves).

“A full clearance was recorded with a flying trade which had dealers and farmers competing for cattle.”

A stand-out lot from Kanturk on Tuesday was the sale of six well bred Friesian heifer calves for €410 a head.

Kanturk, Tuesday

  • No Breed Sex Weight €
  • AA steers 565kg 1095
  • 3 Ch steers 365kg 900
  • 5 Fr steers 491kg 910
  • 6 Lm heifers 405kg 810
  • 6 Hr heifers 350kg 695
  • 1 BB cow 655kg 930
  • 1 Fr cow 685kg 860

For those of us interested in buying a few runner or reared calves, I’m afraid the news is not good. Kilmallock mart’s Denis Kirby reports that reared calves are now “the new gold.” And cost almost as much.

“This week, we saw 800 cattle and calves here at Kilmallock Mart,” Denis reported.

“The trade was excellent for all stock, especially reared calves (sold on Friday in Kilmallock).

“They made up to €640 a head (paid for a 20-week-old Simmental bull calf). Other runner prices were €575, €540, €535.”

Kilmallock, Monday/Wednesday

  • No Breed Sex Weight €
  • 4 Hr steers 386kg 820
  • 2 AA steers 348kg 790
  • 2 Lim steers 543kg 1020
  • 2 Lim heifer 338kg 730
  • 2 AA heifers 343kg 710
  • 1 Ch cow 460kg 720
  • 1 Fr cow 475kg 680

On Monday, 29 pens of bullocks and young bulls were on offer. Light bullocks sold for up to €2.42 per kg.

Heavier lots made up to €2.14 per kg. Bulls hit €2.18 per kg.

On Wednesday the mart held a dry cow sale with dry cows, 86 on offer, making up to €1,140 a head or €1.95 per kg. Commercial heifers sold for up to €730 for light lots, and €1,210 for heavier lots, or €2.24 per kg. A pen of organic heifers made €890 a head or €2.50 per kg.

Dairy stock hit €1,260 each (paid for a two-year-old calved heifer).

Ann Keane of Ennis Mart reported on two solid days of cattle trading.

“We had a good-sized bullock sale on Friday with almost 400 on offer.

Ennis, Thursday/Friday

  • No Breed Sex Weight €
  • 1 Lm steer 840kg 1810
  • 2 Hr steers 657kg 1420
  • 2 Ch steers 747kg 1730
  • 2 Ch heifers 435kg 1090
  • 1 Lm heifer 480kg 1220
  • 1 Ch cow 830kg 1530
  • 3 Lim cows 677kg 1370

“A mixed run of stock available, but quality lots met a great trade both for stores and forward cattle.

“Again, a large number of stock bought online. Buyers were plentiful, with the resurgence of grass growth.

“On Thursday we had a strong entry of cull cows and heifers, and also a large entry of aged bulls.

“The trade for heifers was improved all round, with a strong trade for cows.

The bull trade was marginally improved on the previous week. Again, a large amount of stock purchased online which is proving to be quite popular.

At Macroom Mart last Saturday, this 500kg Angus bull born May 2019 sold for €1,240.
At Macroom Mart last Saturday, this 500kg Angus bull born May 2019 sold for €1,240.

“Aged bulls averaged €1.71/kg with a Limousin of 1,025kg making €1,860.” (Very similar to the price of a Limousin bull I saw selling in Macroom on Saturday. So it’s not so far ‘from Clare to here’ after all).

Staying with Macroom on Saturday, it was another case of a plentiful supply of buyers both online and in person.

Dry cows sold from €75 under to €675 with the kilo. Heifers in Macroom made from €240 to €515 with their weight.

Hereford and Aberdeen Angus bullocks made from €245 to €555 with the kilo. Friesian bullocks sold from €180 to €400 with their weight. Weanling bulls sold from €230 to €610 with their weight.

Macroom. Saturday

  • No Breed Sex Weight €
  • 5 AA steers 620kg 1170
  • 5 Hr steers 375kg 775
  • 5 Fr steers 415kg 715
  • 1 AA heifer 490kg 980
  • 1 Lm heifer 440kg 955
  • 2 Lm heifers 380kg 850
  • 1 Ch cow 735kg 1380

Dungarvan mart provides a calf collection service to bring calves to the mart on Mondays. Contact Dungarvan Mart on 058 41611 for further details. And to view the mart online, log into www.livestock-live.com.

Dungarvan, Tuesday

  • No Breed Sex Weight €
  • 8 AA steers 500kg 1050
  • 2 BB steers 400kg 890
  • 8 Fr steers 569kg 1000
  • 3 Ch heifers 530kg 1090
  • 5 AA heifers 427kg 920
  • 1 Fr cow 550kg 730
  • 1 Ch cow 795kg 1130

In Skibbereen on Friday dry cows sold from €60 to €555 with the kilo. Bullocks made from €350 to €625 with the kilo. Heifers made up to €770 with their weight.

Skibbereen, Friday

  • No Breed Sex Weight €
  • 3 Lim steers 580kg 1205
  • 1 AA steer 545kg 1060
  • 5 Hr steers 523kg 990
  • 1 BB heifer 525kg 1290
  • 6 Ch heifers 340kg 820
  • 1 Lm cow 615kg 1170
  • 1 Sim cow 650kg 930

Overall mart trade: Cattle market trading for the week ending Tuesday June 30th had bullocks averaging €1.94/kg, dairy stock on €1,525. Dry cows were on €1.55/kg. Heifers were averaging €2.02/kg, suckler cows at €3.18/kg or €1,160 per lot.

Weanling bulls at €2.23/kg and weanling heifers at €2.29/kg.

Calves for the week were making €228 a head (source www.livestock-live.com).

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