ICSA reacts angrily to proposed cuts presented to Minister Howlin

9th January, 2012

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin has reacted angrily to reports of a renewed threat to vital farm schemes such as the Disadvantaged Area Scheme and the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, as a result of the deliberations of the Central Expenditure and Evaluation Unit (CEEU), which reports to the Minister for Public Sector Reform.

“The ongoing uncertainty and possibility of further attacks on schemes which have already been cut is doing untold damage to the confidence of the one sector that is consistently growing exports.  The reality is that the closing of REPS, the two cuts to the DA scheme and the halving of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme rate means that many farmers, particularly low-income farmers in the cattle and sheep sectors, are very vulnerable.  Any further cuts could completely devastate the potential for expansion in the suckler herd or sheep flock.  There certainly won’t be any expansion in beef exports as envisaged in the Food Harvest report if we continue to slash and burn the productive basis for quality beef.”

He also pointed out that the Disadvantaged Area Scheme is co-funded by the EU.  “It makes no sense to forego co-funding which is what is implied here.  Equally importantly, we should not be decimating farm programmes given that there is a reform of the CAP underway and we need to make a credible case for further EU funding under Pillar 2 of the CAP which covers Rural Development to cover the 2014-2019 period.”

Mr Gilmartin added that the Government needs to face up to home truths at this stage.  “We cannot achieve the savings required by continuously cutting vital schemes.  The government cannot wipe out vital schemes while continuing to pay public sector pensions in excess of €50,000 per annum.  It is also patently unjust that the Government continues to promise that it will honour the Croke Park deal for one sector while imposing horrendous cuts on other sectors.  Surely, no government would choose to end the school transport scheme for rural students while offering six-figure pay-offs to elite politicians and public servants who opt for early retirement?” 

ICSA urges caution on imported livestock

5th January, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) suckler chairman, Dermot Kelleher, has advised farmers to be extremely wary of disease risk before buying imported livestock.

“All farmers need to think very carefully about buying in imported stock.  I am particularly concerned about the risks associated with increased calf imports and I believe that all farmers should immediately test imported animals for BVD and Johnes before they allow these animals out of isolation.

“We are just starting a national BVD eradication programme in Ireland and there is a determined mood among farmers to tackle the BVD issue.  Widespread testing of home-bred calves will hopefully be a feature of 2012 and it will be compulsory in 2013.  Therefore, it only makes sense that we should be testing all imported calves, especially as many of these calves are coming from EU states that don’t have a BVD control programme in place.

“Farmers who bring imported animals into their herds without being absolutely sure about their disease status are playing with fire. The potential economic loss from spreading disease completely outweighs any advantage that may be attributed to imported stock,” he warned.

Beef prices receive early year lift, rises also for sheep

4th January, 2012

Livestock Price Coordinator for the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), John Cleary, has said that farmers have received a late Christmas present with beef prices receiving the second major surge in three months. Beef prices received a significant increase in November but another lift was not expected so soon into the New Year. Mr. Cleary also stated that despite the large rises, strong negotiators can achieve better than quoted prices.

For a good mix of steers, the base price being quoted is €4.00 – 4.10/kg, an increase of 10-20c from before Christmas. Factories are quoting €4.20 – €4.25/kg for heifers which is a significant rise from before the Christmas break. Heifers were the strongest performers in 2011 and this looks set to continue into the New Year. For a mix of U and R grade bulls, the base price is also €4.20/kg, a rise of 20c from last quotes.  Base price quotes for cows stand at €3.20 – €3.65/kg.

Commenting on this week’s trade, Mr. Cleary said: “The demand from factories across the board is quite incredible. Never have we seen such a jump in beef prices so soon into the new year and so soon after an equally large jump last November. We usually get one big jump every few quarters but nothing to this extent such a short time after the last one. However, it’s a new year and we welcome this increase as hopefully it will set the tone for the remainder of the year. The line has been drawn in the sand with last year’s prices. We need to maintain at least €4/kg for in spec heifers and bulls going forward to build a reliable platform for the rest of 2012. Better prices are also available for the best cattle should farmers be willing to negotiate as best they can.”

Sheep prices have remained solid over the Christmas break. Factories are quoting €5.20/kg for lambs up to 23.5/kg which is up 5c from pre Christmas prices.  Ewes are being quoted €3.20/kg.

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.”