18 JANUARY 2019

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has urged beef farmers to cease the practice of rearing New Zealand influenced dairy bred calves. “Taking on calves from Jersey and Kiwi cross herds make no financial sense whatsoever. It is a futile practice that will never turn a profit for a beef farmer,” he said.

Mr Graham was responding to recent comments from Pearse Kelly of Teagasc who said a dairy farmer would need to pay a beef farmer €140 on top of a Jersey-cross calf to finish him as a 24 month steer at current beef prices.

 “The figures just don’t add up. Indeed, I would argue the Teagasc figure is on the low side and a beef man would need a lot more than the €140 suggested. It’s time to face economic reality with this one and stop taking on these calves once and for all. Farmers need to be very cautious too to avoid beef cross Jersey influenced calves.”

Continuing Mr Graham said, “Dairy in this country has been moving more and more towards a New Zealand model, but the difference between Ireland and New Zealand is that New Zealand doesn’t have a beef industry. Yet here in Ireland beef farmers are almost expected to take on the influx of unwanted dairy calves. Unfortunately, it is a road we can no longer afford to go down and the responsibility ultimately lies with the sector that bred them.”

Mr Graham added that farmers also needed to wake up to the dangers of trying to make profit from rearing Holstein bull beef. “I am inundated with calls from farmers who are being turned away from factories with O grade bull beef. In the last week, I estimate I have had calls from farmers who have some 2,000 head of Holstein bull beef who cannot find a factory to take them. Teagasc figures do not account for the risk of being caught with bulls going over age and nobody to buy them.”



15 JANUARY 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the defeat of Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons has raised the level of risk for the Irish beef sector to status orange. “It is now urgent that the Government undertakes a concerted push to get EU agreement on special measures to underpin the beef sector.”

“The key issue is to find a temporary home for beef exports normally destined for the UK market, in the event of a no deal Brexit. While we must remain hopeful that common sense will prevail, we must prepare for the worst.”

“A special package to buy displaced Irish beef into emergency storage or intervention is the minimum required. This is not just in Ireland’s interest; it is also essential to avoid catastrophic disruption of the entire EU beef market.”

Mr Kent concluded by calling on both sides to find a means of deferring the UK leaving on March 29 if there is no movement towards a better resolution in the House of Commons. “Unfortunately, it seems there is a strand of thought in the UK that sees nothing wrong with the WTO default position. There seems to be a failure to understand the implications for food availability there and the potential for food price inflation in the UK caused by tariffs on food imports and a severe drop in the value of sterling. Those who suggest that the UK could unilaterally decide to collect no tariffs have no understanding of how this would undermine their ability to negotiate trade deals. But unfortunately, Ireland is facing severe collateral damage from the complete lack of responsible leadership in the UK and our government must act now to get a deal from Europe.”





15 JANUARY 2019

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has welcomed the inclusion of meal bins as an eligible investment in TAMS for all sectors. “During our discussions on TAMS with the Department of Agriculture Food & the Marine ICSA had looked for this concession and had been guaranteed of its inclusion if the funding was available. We now see the follow through on that promise and I commend the department for that,” said Mr Brooks.

“The fodder crisis of last year highlighted the need for clean and safe storage solutions for meal concentrates. Meal bins provide this and also give farmers the option of buying concentrates in bulk and avail of any savings to be made. This is hugely important in sectors where tight margins and low incomes are features. In addition, it gives parity to the beef and sheep sectors as dairy farmers already receive support for feeding systems.  ICSA will continue to liaise with department officials on other meaningful ways to support drystock farmers through TAMS,” concluded Mr Brooks.

The current tranche of TAMS opened in December and will remain open until 5 April 2019.



15 JANUARY 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has described comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar regarding consuming less meat to mitigate climate change as “reckless in the extreme”. Commenting further Mr Kent said, “As one of the most important beef exporters in the northern hemisphere, it is very unfortunate indeed that our Taoiseach should be calling into question the sustainability of Irish beef production.”

Mr Varadkar had made his comments in response to a question as to what he was doing personally to reduce his own carbon footprint.

Continuing Mr Kent said, “In 2018 agri-food sector exports amounted to €13.6bn with the value of meat and livestock exports comprising €3.97bn of that total. Surely the onus is on Mr Varadkar to protect such a vital industry; his cavalier comments however will do nothing but undermine it.”

“Ireland’s farmers are leaders when it comes to climate change mitigation. We work tirelessly with all relevant stakeholders both here and in Brussels to deliver the highest quality produce while also delivering on food security, traceability and sustainability. Other industries need to be just as proactive and the Taoiseach should remember that before making disparaging remarks about world class produce. Mr Varadkar would be better served putting his efforts in preventing vast quantities of inferior meat products entering the EU from the other side of the world.”

Concluding Mr Kent called upon Mr Varadkar to clarify that he wasn’t suggesting that people should eat less sustainably produced Irish beef and lamb.




11 JANUARY 2019

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has commended the publication in the Farmers’ Journal of costs of production for a kg of beef outlined by Waterford farmer Billy Glasheen which demonstrates the need for straight talking about the future of the sector. “Billy Glasheen has brought reality to the discussion by including a rate for the farmer’s labour.”

“He also argues correctly that account should be taken of the cost of the farmer’s own land but he has set that against land based direct payments. In reality for most farmers, the direct payments are not fully compensating for the opportunity cost of leasing out land.”

“The figures which show an average production cost for a kg of beef in the range €5 to €5.30 are more realistic than Teagasc figures in the range €4 to €4.54 because the Teagasc figures do not allow anything for your own labour or your family’s labour. There is no other industry where the cost of production ignores basic labour costs.”

“ICSA has been arguing for years now that it is unacceptable that a farmer is expected to work for free, especially in an economy where there are many job opportunities and where farmers are facing a huge challenge to get help either full-time or part-time. We have to get the message out to all stakeholders, including processors, retailers and consumers that the real cost of production is above €5/kg and that it is utterly unsustainable for farmers to sell beef on today’s market at €3.65.

This also serves as a wake-up call for the Government that continued expansion is not working for our suckler or beef farmers and that a complete re-think is required.”



11 JANUARY 2019

ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chairman Hugh Farrell has called for a comprehensive research programme into the link between TB (tuberculosis) in deer and in cattle. “It is no longer acceptable that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine turn a blind eye to the potential link. There are numerous examples of bovine TB blackspots coinciding with areas where wild deer populations are out of control and encroaching on farmland.”

“The biggest breakthrough in reducing bovine TB in sixty years happened as a result of the Offaly badger trials which provided the scientific basis for tackling a major source of TB infection. As a result of that trial, there is now an understanding of the need for control programmes where badgers are infected. Not only is this good for cattle, it is also actually in the long-term interest of the badger population to reduce infected badgers while leaving healthy badgers in low risk TB areas intact.”

“It is a stated objective of the Department to eliminate TB but this cannot be achieved unless we know exactly what is going on with TB in deer and what can be done to eliminate the risk of transmission to cattle. The only way we can do that is to conduct comprehensive research and trials on a pilot basis in areas where farmers are complaining about the impact of deer.”

“There must be a research programme and there must be full openness and transparency around the results. There is anecdotal evidence of deer being shot but deemed totally unsuitable for the food chain because of chronic infection.  However, when farmers have brought this to the attention of the Department, there has been a marked reluctance to test the deer in question. This is not good enough; we cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand. It is all very well to say there is no conclusive evidence of a link but the question is has the Department tried hard enough to find one?”

ICSA have also requested that officials from the Department’s Wildlife Unit are present when the TB reconvenes next Wednesday 16 January.