ICSA comment on details of BVD programme

21st December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) suckler chairman, Dermot Kelleher, has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine of details of the BVD Eradication Scheme.  However, he said that the €100 in respect of each PI animal along with a €15 knackery subsidy falls well short of the economic cost to the farmer.

“ICSA supports the effort to eradicate this damaging disease from the national herd and we encourage all farmers to test their calves in 2012.  This will give farmers a head start on 2013 when the testing will be compulsory.  The key reason for testing is that it is in the farmer’s own interest because the knock-on effects of BVD can be truly horrendous in terms of cattle having low immunity to other diseases, fertility issues etc and the cost of BVD in a herd can run into thousands.

“I would also like to highlight the €100 welfare payment for any suckler cow whose offspring is removed during the programme. This is not sufficient, it costs at least €500 a year to keep a suckler so the welfare payment should reflect that,” Mr. Kelleher concluded

Christmas demand to continue, sheep weight limits rise

19th December, 2011

Livestock Price Coordinator for the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), John Cleary, has said that while factories had been expected to slow down production in the run up to Christmas, prices have remained solid and it is forecasted that strong prices will continue after the Christmas break.

For a good mix of steers, the base price being quoted is €3.95 – €4.05/kg, a solid increase of 10-15c from last week’s quotes. Factories are quoting €4.05- €4.10/kg for heifers which is an increase on 5c from last week. Demand for heifers is incredibly strong very strong at the minute with factories desperately looking for prime heifer meat. For a mix of U and R grade bulls, the base price is also €4.05 – €4.10/kg. Base price quotes for cows stand at €3.20-€3.65/kg. This is an increase of 10-15c from last week.

Commenting on this week’s trade, Mr. Cleary said: “We had been expecting the factories to be pealing back prices in the week running up to Christmas but that hasn’t been the case with demand outstripping supply. Factories are needing to reach targets so that means the higher prices being paid. There is also word on the ground that factories are already making calls to have stock lined up for next week. This is almost unheard of. The week after Christmas has traditionally been a very slow trading week but factories across the country are looking stock in the run up to the New Year. Again, it’s a good time to have stock. Next week is prime time to bring to the factories if animals are ready.”
There is an early Christmas present for sheep farmers. Factories have raised the accepted weight limits on lambs from 23/kg to 23.5/kg. Quotes from factories are lambs up to 23.5kg are €5.15 and ewes are being quoted €3.00 – €3.10. John Cleary said: “It’s great news that the factories have raised limits this week up to 23.5kg, it means that sheep farmers can extra for the quality product they are bringing to factories.”

ICSA elects new Beef Chairman

16th December, 2011

Edmond Phelan has been elected the new ICSA Beef Chairman. Phelan, who was previously the association’s Munster Vice President for five years, was elected at the ICSA AGM and Conference, which took place in Dublin recently.
Speaking after his victory Mr. Phelan said: “I’m both delighted and honoured to have been elected by my peers to the position of Beef Chairman. It’s a hugely important role especially given the historic year we have just had. Prices are strong but need to be stronger when to take into account spiralling input costs. The line has been drawn in the sand now. We cannot dip under the prices we have seen since June. We need to build on this and create a platform for viable farms going into the future.”
In other ICSA elections, Joe Dolan was elected vice chairman of the beef committee, John Barron was returned unopposed as rural development chairman while Thomas Connor was elected to the position of rural development vice chairman and Malcolm Thompson was re-elected treasurer.

ICSA welcomes Coveney’s commitment to suckler herd

16th December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) Suckler Chairman, Dermot Kelleher, has welcomed the commitment by the Minister for Agriculture to protect the suckler herd. Speaking at the ICSA AGM and Conference in Dublin this week, the Minister said the “I believe in the suckler herd, it must be maintained at all costs.”
Dermot Kelleher said: “I was heartened by the Minister’s comments with regard to the suckler herd. Minister Coveney was steadfast in his support of the suckler herd, he is convinced that farming needs it thriving and I agree with him. His commitment to suckler farmers is evident in the amount of work he had to do to ensure that the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme received no cuts in this year’s budget when other schemes received significant cuts.
“The announcement of €5 million funding for discussion groups for cattle farmers is also a very positive move.  However, we need to focus much more on quality breeding in the suckler herd and ICSA intends engaging with the Minister to ensure that this happens.  That will require an ongoing commitment to funding and we must also consider what use could be made of rural development funding under Pillar 2 of a revised CAP,” Mr. Kelleher concluded.

Spiralling input costs offsets rises in income

16th December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) national president, Gabriel Gilmartin has said that while he is pleased with the increased farm income figures from the CSO, he said that escalating input costs are a worrying trend.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that farm incomes have risen 28% in 2011 from 2010 but input costs are up substantially.

“Farm incomes are improving significantly since the record low in 2009 but rising operational costs are a big concern. Take for example the cost of fertilisers and feedstuffs. They have risen 19% and 9% respectively and the concern is that they will remain high but there is no guarantee that beef and sheep prices will hold up,” Mr. Gilmartin said

“However, it is not all doom and gloom, it’s encouraging to see that agriculture is the one area where growth is being registered in the economy. If costs can be kept under control and prices are maintained, there is potential to develop the industry further,” Mr. Gilmartin concluded.

Threat of dogs still a worry for sheep farmers

15th December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) sheep chairman, Paul Brady, has warned those thinking of giving the gift of a dog this Christmas should carefully consider the potential consequences to the farming community.
Mr. Brady was speaking on the back of recent reports of dog attacks on sheep which included two German Shepherds attacking and killing sheep in his own flock in recent days.

Mr Brady repeated the ICSA call for all dogs to be identified by means of a compulsory micro-chip.  Farmers are now required to electronically identify their sheep and it seems only fair that dogs owners should do the same.  “Compulsory ID won’t change the dog’s behaviour but it will change owner’s behaviour.  It will make dog owners responsible and liable for keeping their dogs under control.”
“The problem has simply not gone away. Unchipped dogs are a real concern for sheep farmers. Only this weekend, two German Shepherds mauled and killed a number of sheep in my own flock. Sheep is a seriously valuable commodity and people must be fully aware of the full scale of responsibilities that goes along with having a dog, especially in rural areas,” Mr. Brady said.
“Dogs can be a menace to sheep and sheep farmers, many farmers have firsthand experience of unruly dogs terrorising their flock and nothing will change until mandatory chipping of dogs is implemented.”
“Christmas is a prime time for the giving of dogs as gifts but people must be acutely aware of the huge responsibility that lends itself to having an animal. There are too many dogs in the possession of irresponsible owners who are not prepared to look them properly. When dogs are allowed to roam freely without owners knowing where they are, then the sheep is the one that pays the ultimate price,” Mr. Brady concluded.

ICSA appeals for 50% payment to remaining farmers immediately

15th December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) national president, Gabriel Gilmartin, has urged the Department of Agriculture to issue 50% of the Single Farm Payment to those who haven’t received any Single Payment yet. This relates primarily to farmers who have already had inspections on their farm and are waiting for maps to be digitised or paperwork to be processed.
Mr. Gilmartin said: “This is the single most pressing and worrying issue for farmers at the minute. How are farmers meant to run a successful business if they are being caught up in unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape with issues that were meant to have been solved last year?
We were given assurances earlier in 2011 that digitisation of maps would not be a concern this year but again we are getting a lot of calls on this. In the digitisation cases, if there is a discrepancy in area, the amount involved will invariably be a small percentage and therefore I cannot understand why 50% can’t be paid immediately.”
“In reality, any clarifications following inspections should now have been sorted. In October, the Minister assured us that 50% of the SFP would be made by 1st December.  It’s fair to acknowledge that the Department has a very good track record in getting out payments to farmers who have no issues and the level of overall payments that are on time is very good.  However, that’s no consolation to farmers who have bills to pay and remain in the dark about when they might get paid.  Payment of 50% of SFP plus DAS payments where relevant would make a big difference with no risk that there would be any over-payments.”

ICSA says exchange rate could hinder export growth

13th December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) national president, Gabriel Gilmartin, today (13th December) claimed that the strength of the euro could hinder export growth in the next few years. Mr. Gilmartin, who was speaking at the ICSA AGM & Conference, said that “the determination of the ECB to keep the euro strong serves only the interests of Germany at present.”
He contrasted the policies of the ECB and the Bank of England on quantitative easing which has resulted in the value of the euro going from 69p to 85p in five years. Mr. Gilmartin pointed out that, for beef, the UK is still our most important export market accounting for almost half of all beef exports.   He added that we are also competing with British exports such as lamb on the French market.  “My concern is that the recent EU summit has again completely ignored the way in which the ECB policy is keeping the euro high relative to sterling.”
Mr. Gilmartin suggested that the ambitious expansion plans set out in the Food Harvest report and by the activation groups charged with its implementation may be overly optimistic.
“While there is a renewed sense of confidence, we need to take a balanced view.   Beef production in Ireland cannot expand rapidly in the short term, without a sustainable increase in demand so that a viable price is achieved.
“We need to ensure first that €4/kg can be maintained.  And second, we need to see real progress in developing Brand Ireland and building demand for Irish beef on a wide range of premium EU and other markets.”
However, he concluded with a note of caution that the exchange rate was a real issue for Irish exports. “This is not a suggestion that we should leave the euro, rather it is a call for a review of how the ECB strategy is supportive of a minority of member states at the expense of the majority in the EU.”

Cows and bulls up with factories looking to peel back prices, sheep performing strongly

12th December, 2011

Livestock Price Coordinator for the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), John Cleary, has said that despite some significant difference in price depending on the region and county, factories were still actively seeking good quality stock with bulls and cows the most sought after of types of beef.
For a good mix of steers, the base price being quoted is €3.85 – 3.90/kg, a descrease of 5c from last week’s prices. Factories are quoting €3.95- €4.05/kg for heifers which is no change from last week.  For a mix of U and R grade bulls, the base price is also €4.00 – €4.05/kg, a rise of 10-15c from last week.  Base price quotes for cows stand at €3.10-€3.60/kg. This shows a rise of 10c from the higher quotes. The manufacturing trade is still strong and requiring the low end cuts of meat from cows.

Commenting on this week’s trade, Mr. Cleary said: “For the first time in a number of weeks we have seen a distinct gap in the demand for animals by factories, the north west would appear to be pulling demand while factories in the midlands, south and east and are still very eager for all kinds of stock, most especially bulls and cows. All that said, prices remain strong overall despite some attempts to pull back. We’re getting towards the Christmas cut off so if an animal is close to being ready for the factory then now maybe is the time to pull them into the lorry. After this day week, we’ll see a slowing down of trade before Christmas so the window for going to the factory in 2011 is closing,” Mr. Cleary concluded.
Sheep pries are again strong this week with a rise for lambs. Factories are paying up €5.15/kg for lambs up to 23/kg which is an increase of 10c from last week.  Quotes for ewes are €3.10/kg, no increase from last week or over the last number of weeks.

ICSA misgivings on DAS reduction criteria

9th December, 2011

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) national president Gabriel Gilmartin has expressed strong misgivings about one of the criteria that may be used to achieve the proposed €30 million reduction in Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) payments, as announced in the budget.  Mr Gilmartin said that the suggestion that farmers with land in both disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged areas should be cut needs to be carefully reviewed.

Mr Gilmartin pointed out that ICSA strongly opposed any cuts to the Disadvantaged Area Payment, especially as there has already been a €37 million cut to the scheme in a previous budget.  “However, ICSA believes that if the cut is inevitable, then the objective should be to preserve the payment for active farmers as much as possible.”

For that reason, ICSA favours the principle that there should be a higher minimum stocking rate. However, the proposal to reduce the rate of payment for farmers with land in both disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged areas was very unfair to active and progressive farmers who have taken on extra land outside their own locality, through rent, lease or purchase.

“Many farmers, in the west of Ireland especially, who are farming on marginal land, and where there is very limited availability of good land, have tended to rent land further a-field and in some cases outside their own county.  These progressive and hard-working individuals will be penalised by this proposal as the rented land is usually non-disadvantaged.”

“I am calling on the Minister to re-consider these cases and ICSA will be making a submission on this in the coming days.”