12 FEBRUARY 2019

A farmers meeting hosted by Leitrim ICSA will take place on Thursday 14 February, in Henry’s Haven, Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim. The event will commence at 8.00 pm.

Guest speakers on the night will include:

Hugh Farrell – ICSA Animal Health & Welfare Chair 

The on-going challenge of TB Eradication – Where to now?

Ray Gilmartin – Agricultural Consultant

Schemes & Drystock Farming

Followed by a Question & Answer Session

Discussions will also take place on;

Beef Prices, CAP Reform & Brexit

All farmers are invited to attend.

For further information, please contact ICSA Leitrim chairman Ray Gilmartin on 087 8325519 or ICSA office at 057 8662120.




12 FEBRUARY 2019

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has said that the bull beef trade is extremely frustrating at the moment for farmers. “There are enormous difficulties with bull beef at present. Since the start of 2019, I have been inundated with calls from farmers struggling to get young bulls killed. Farmers with dairy breed bulls are particularly badly impacted. Most factories don’t want to know about dairy bull beef. Farmers with continental bulls are faring out a little better but delays in getting bulls killed is also a problem for them.”

“It is high time we had clarity on the outlook for dairy bull beef in particular. It seems to us that this enterprise is a complete waste of time. It’s bad enough losing money but to have the stress of not knowing when or if you can get your bulls killed is completely unacceptable.”

“I am calling on Teagasc to make it very clear that farmers should not get involved in dairy bull beef production. Friesian bulls are just about making €3.00-€3.10 at present while ordinary bulls are getting €3.50-€3.60, which is still back a good .40c on this time last year. It is way too high of a risk and even if markets improve to the extent that there is a steady demand, the economics of dairy bull beef simply doesn’t stack up.”

“Apart from the cost of feeding animals that grade below R, handling dairy bulls is high risk in terms of health and safety. Wear and tear on facilities with bulls is another factor never properly costed. But it is undoubtedly the case that feed barriers, drinking bowls and dividing gates do not last intact for long with bulls compared to heifers or steers. There is no doubt that continental U grade bulls are far more efficient converters of feed but the risks and rewards from dairy bulls just don’t stack up at all.”



12 FEBRUARY 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the Government should re-open the Irish embassy in Tehran. “Iran is a hugely influential country in the Middle East with a population of over 80 million people. Ireland needs to keep a line of dialogue open with Iran, not least because it could be a potentially important market for meat exports.”

The ICSA president said that Ireland must be careful not to fall out of step with our EU partners in terms of its relationship with Iran. While Donald Trump has an adversarial relationship with Iran, we need to be guided by our partners in the EU who are currently working on a Special Purpose Vehicle for non-dollar trade with Iran. The EU position is that EU members should be able to trade with Iran, particularly in relation to food.

“It was a particularly unfortunate knee-jerk decision during the worst period of the economic collapse to close our embassies in the Vatican and Tehran. The savings are so small as to be irrelevant, but a committed member state of the European Union which is utterly dependent on exports needs to broaden its world view.”

“We are currently looking all over the world for export destinations some of which are very far behind Iran in terms of GDP per capita and overall ability to pay a viable price for Irish products. While it is clear that trade with Iran is beset by difficulties in terms of banking restrictions and American driven sanctions, it is time to recognise that the EU is moving on towards better relations and we need to get on board with that policy.”




Dunmore native Mona O’Donoghue-Concannon has been has been elected to the senior position of ICSA Vice President for Connacht/Ulster. Taking up her position at the associations recent AGM & Annual Conference Ms O’Donoghue-Concannon described it as an honour and a proud moment for her and her family.

“For too long, the voices of women in agriculture haven’t been heard and I applaud ICSA for encouraging more women to stand for elected office and bring their expertise to the table. There is a place for women at all levels of farming politics and in farming organisations and I am honoured to be at the forefront of that charge.”

Mona runs a dairy, beef and suckler farm with her husband, brother and 14-year-old daughter in Cortoon in Tuam. The dairy enterprise comprises of sixty Shorthorn, Friesian and Montbéliarde cows, while Shorthorns dominate the sixty-cow-beef herd. Mona currently holds the title of Corrib Oil Lady Farmer of the Year having beaten off stiff competition to the title.

Hitting the ground running Mona said, “My immediate priority is with helping push through the association’s policies on Brexit and in particular securing the necessary rescue packages for the beef sector in the event of a no-deal Brexit. On CAP reform, we want to see a fully funded CAP that focuses on protecting payments to ordinary family farms, not massive industrial units.”

Outlining what she hopes to bring to the role as VP for Connacht/Ulster, she said “Farming is not just about individual farmers, it’s about farming families, rural communities and the broader agri-business world. I want to be a voice for genuine hard working farm families who produce the finest food in the world to the most exacting standards. We are also custodians of the land and we take our responsibility seriously and change and adapt our practices to meet environmental challenges.

None of this is easy and that is why it is so important for farmers to come together and engage with the broader community on all the issues affecting life in rural Ireland. It’s about raising awareness of the challenges and rising up to meet those challenges. I look forward to working with all the ICSA team and broader membership to deliver real sustainability for farming families, both economic and environmentally.”




ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chairman Hugh Farrell has said that many farmers who have never had a BVD positive test result in their calves are fed up with a scheme that has gone on for seven years and he said that it is now time to make 2019 the last year of full scale compulsory testing.

He said that suckler farmers are particularly frustrated because the loss of a calf results in zero income for that suckler cow for the year and he reiterated the ICSA view that the compensation for a suckler calf under the BVD programme should be at least €400.

However, the key point is that most farmers have been co-operating with the scheme over the past seven years and have never had a positive BVD test. Mandatory testing of those herds who have never had a BVD positive test has to come to an end. Herds where BVD is still being found could be required to continue testing based on risk assessment and of course, there is nothing to stop farmers continuing on a voluntary basis. However, it is now time to save the time and cost of testing from herds where the risk of BVD is all but eliminated.




Westmeath man Sean McNamara has been elected to the position of ICSA sheep committee chairman at the association’s AGM and Annual Conference held in Portlaoise. Having served two years as vice committee chair Mr McNamara succeeds Roscommon sheep farmer John Brooks in the role.

Hailing from Lismacaffrey, Mr McNamara is married to Eleanor. Together they have four children, one of whom Shane, works with Sean in the running of their large ewe and cattle enterprise. “Numbers are running at approximately 800 ewes at present and 140 cattle, so we’re kept busy,” said Mr McNamara.

Outlining the main priorities of ICSA’s sheep committee for 2019 Mr McNamara said, “Our focus has to be on ensuring the best possible return for sheep farmers. We know the age profile of those in the sector continues to rise so if we are to have any hope of ensuring we have a sheep industry into the future we have to make it viable.”

“While we have had the welcome introduction of the Sheep Welfare Scheme, its value has been eroded by the constant imposition of other costs. These include the roll-out of EID tagging, the implementation of the Clean Livestock Policy (CLP) for sheep and various other levies, all of which take a big chunk out of already paltry incomes.”

“The area of sheep carcass trim will be another focus of ours. Overly zealous trimming of sheep carcasses is an ongoing worry with farmers who are reporting a kilo or more of a difference in kill out weights among various factories. As it stands, there is no EU legislative requirement for processors to classify sheep carcasses as is the case for cattle. Carcass trim, weights and grading are all at the discretion of the meat plant, and this has to end,” according to Mr McNamara.

Concluding Mr McNamara said it is possible to secure sheep farming remains an integral part of our vibrant agricultural mix. However, he said, “With margins so tight, every cent per kilo counts and every market counts. Together with my sheep committee, I will continue to push for the opening of new markets, be they for sheepmeat or for the live trade and for sheep farmers to get a fair and viable return for their hard work.”




A farmers meeting hosted by Cork West ICSA will take place on Thursday 7 February, in the Parkway Hotel, Dunmanway, Co Cork. The event will commence at 8.00 pm.

Guest speakers on the night will be:

Eddie Punch – ICSA General Secretary 

Beef prices, Brexit & CAP Reform

John Humphries – Live Exporter

Live Exports Outlook

Michael Brady – Agricultural Consultant

Schemes & Drystock Farming

Seamus Sherlock – Rural Development Chair

Rural Isolation & Bank Debt

All farmers are invited to attend.

For further information, please contact ICSA Cork West chairman Dermot Kelleher on 087 6799178 or ICSA office at 057 8662120.





A farmers meeting hosted by Monaghan ICSA will take place on Wednesday 6 February, in the Four Seasons Hotel, Monaghan. The event will commence at 8.00 pm.

Guest speakers on the night will be:

Tom Staunton – Iomlán Animal Science

Calf & Lamb Nutrition

Barry McCarron – CREST Manager

Opportunities for Renewable Energy & Sustainable Technologies

Discussions will also take place on;

Beef Prices, CAP Reform & Brexit

All farmers are invited to attend.

For further information, please contact ICSA Monaghan chairman Edmund Graham on 086 1713521 or ICSA office at 057 8662120.



31 JANUARY 2019

ICSA national president Patrick Kent has today said “The Government must be forthcoming with details of the emergency aid it intends to seek for the beef sector from the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”

Mr Kent was addressing Minister Michael Creed and members of the ICSA National Executive at ICSA’s AGM and Annual Conference which took place in Portlaoise today (31 January 2019).

Beef on the Brink formed the theme of the conference and Mr Kent focused on the need for clarity on the nature and scope of the emergency aid that can be expected should a no-deal Brexit come to pass. “Market panic has already impacted the price of beef and we cannot allow this uncertainty to continue. Farmers have been operating in a vacuum while factories have been taking advantage,” he said.

Mr Kent called on the Minister for a “backstop for beef.” He said ICSA supports the call for emergency EU measures to take out our surplus beef via intervention or aids to private storage but the lack of clarity is causing panic around what price beef will be in 2019. “We need a commitment to put a realistic floor under the price of beef with a trigger price that ensures that current prices cannot be allowed to fall any further.”

Mr Kent said the days of supermarkets and processors exploiting farmers based on false costs of production must also end. He said a recent assessment of the cost of production per kg of beef shows the average cost to be in the range of €5 to €5.30. “These figures bring a sense of reality to the discussion by including a rate for the farmer’s labour. There is no other industry where the cost of production ignores basic labour costs and we will no longer countenance Teagasc pontificating on the cost of production unless they have included the cost of farmers’ own labour.”

Mr Kent also said that the time has come for a comprehensive review of the beef grid. “We want it simplified, more straightforward. When a farmer sends cattle to the factory, they need clarity not confusion on what each beast will make. We want to see better bonuses for U grade cattle and this should be paid for by higher penalties on P grade cattle. All O grade cattle should qualify for QA bonus as should quality cows and young bulls, but not P grade cattle of any category.”

“An examination of the actual costs of production per kg of beef illustrates that buying P or O grade calves when beef price is at €3.75 for R grades is completely unviable. This is why we believe that the dairy expansion must be re-evaluated and the only rational conclusion for the beef sector is that we need to reduce production. We need to do this to cut costs and to make product scarcer and we need to keep going down the road of reducing production until price cuts are reversed.”

“We also must do much more to help live exports. ICSA wants to see every effort made to assist live exporters. Huge state efforts have been put into supporting new markets for beef but there must be a full commitment to do the same for live exports. We need to ensure that there is no red tape hindering the live export trade.”

“We also need a strategy to market suckler beef as a premium niche product, grass fed and distinct from grain fed feedlot beef. We cannot condone the Taoiseach of the country saying he is reducing his meat consumption on health or climate change grounds. These arguments are spurious and Ireland, as one of the world’s leading exporters of beef and a significant producer of lamb cannot allow this propaganda to go unchecked.”

“At ICSA, we believe that CAP reform will have to reflect the fact that no livestock production system is profitable at the moment and for that reason we need to return to the idea of extensification as a pillar of CAP payments. ICSA also supports capping payments with no loophole for employees on industrial farms because the CAP must support family farms first and foremost.”

“We also want to see a Pillar 2 scheme where we have an agri-environment scheme that looks a lot more like REPS and a lot less like GLAS. In short, we want Pillar 2 schemes that mean that the farmer who participates can see a real benefit over the farmer that doesn’t.”

Mr Kent said he was pleased to see that the Department has finally taken action on the issue of carcass trim supervision. He said however that, “Now it is also time to ensure the exact same scrutiny in sheep meat plants. ICSA has raised concerns that there are different kill out rates being reported in different sheep factories and we need the same Department scrutiny for the sheep sector as the beef sector.”

Mr Kent welcomed the publication of an organic strategy highlighted the need for a much more ambitious strategy to better market our organic meats and capitalise much more on the potential.

He said ICSA is fully opposed to making the TB history available on mart boards and will remain committed to this position at the TB stakeholder forum.

Mr Kent reiterated the association’s stance that a stronger line on rural crime is needed and that the Government get to grips with escalating insurance costs which is a real problem for all businesses including farmers and marts.



30 JANUARY 2019

ICSA suckler chair John Halley has welcomed the launch of the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme which will promote weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves. However, he said that the money is just a drop in the ocean compared to the challenges facing the sector, and on its own it won’t be enough. Mr Halley reiterated his call for a further payment for the suckler sector.

“There is also scope for additional payments to assist the sector which are compatible with EU objectives. The reality is that an extra €40 is not enough to make a real difference for suckler farmers. For that reason ICSA has proposed a payment of €80 per calved heifer in the suckler herd provided that they calve before 30 months. This would serve to incentivise greater efficiency both in terms of economics and in terms of climate change.”

“This can aid suckler farmers who badly need more than the €40 in the BEEP scheme. It can easily be sold to the EU as a climate change measure because it reduces the amount of dry heifers walking around a farm that are unproductive.”

However, Mr Halley said that without a national strategy to market grass fed suckler beef as a premium niche product, the negative outlook for sucklers will get worse. “Suckler beef has to attract a significant premium given that it is used as the backdrop to promoting our beef and given its traditional role in Irish farming. We also need to see a substantial increase in live export outlets. The Government needs to put much more emphasis on assisting live exports and removing red tape blockages.”

Participants in the scheme will measure the live weight of the calf at weaning as a percentage of the cow’s live weight. Funding of €20m has been allocated to the scheme which will operate on a pilot basis in 2019, allowing for a payment of up to €40 per calf.

Applications for the scheme will be accepted between 4 and 22 February 2019.