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Fields of Athenry Not Comparable with Suckler Farm Reality

Jan 12, 2015 | Press Releases | 0 comments

12th January 2015

ICSA suckler chairman Dermot Kelleher has expressed reservations about the new Teagasc suckler research herd in Athenry. According to Mr Kelleher the project is not in tune with the reality of the land farmed by many suckler farmers. He also expressed concern that the herd is being managed to provide beef to meat factories and will be totally irrelevant to the live export trade for weanlings because of the type of cow being used.

“The fact that Dawn Meats is sponsoring the project has led to concerns that the focus will be on Angus-cross beef and that the system will be suckler to beef. Many farmers in the west of Ireland are focused on high-grade continental cattle, with a view to producing an export-grade weanling. They do this in many cases on difficult marginal land. The land at the Athenry research centre is top class, dry land and is not typical of west of Ireland suckler farms at all,” he said.

“It seems to me that the whole project is not engaging with the reality of where suckler farmers are at. From an economics perspective, ICSA believes that suckler farming needs to produce more weanlings for live export. It is clear that increasing or even maintaining the current level of suckler beef for Irish factories is a recipe for disaster, making beef too plentiful with a consequent knock-on effect on prices.”

Mr. Kelleher also said that many farmers suspect that the herd at Athenry will demonstrate lower costs and that this will be used as a stick to beat farmers with. “It’s obvious that the land at Athenry will support a much longer grazing season than most farmers on heavy land could possibly achieve. Therefore costs will be lower and farmers who can’t match this will be derided as inefficient when in fact their farms cannot be compared to Athenry. However, the publicity around lower costs at Athenry will be used as a reason by supermarkets and processors to keep farm-gate price low.”

“The reality of this situation is that if a young lad starting out had a few acres of land, no-one would advise him to start a suckler herd, and the planned research in Athenry is not going to change that,” concluded Mr. Kelleher.

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ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has said it is unacceptable that some 18,600 farmers will have to wait until February 2024 to receive their ACRES payment. “ICSA, along with other farmer representatives, today (6 December) met with senior Department of Agriculture officials in Portlaoise for an update on payments from the various farm schemes. At this meeting we were informed that no participant of the Cooperation Project (CP) stream of ACRES tranche one will be paid until February at the earliest. This news will come as a devasting blow to all those farmers who have been already waiting far too long for their payments,” he said.

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