16 JANUARY 2020

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has disagreed with the initial report from Teagasc which suggests there is no need for any significant amendment to the beef grid based on their initial desk top analysis. “ICSA is convinced that the grid is not reflecting the extra added value of suckler type, higher grade animals because our trial of meat yield suggests a much higher return from R+ heifers compared to O= heifers.”

“Accordingly, ICSA will be insisting on a comprehensive field trial to determine what the extra added value of suckler beef is. The ICSA trial showed that the meat yield from an R+ heifer is of the order of 60% of the carcass weight compared to 52% from the dairy type O grade heifer. This extra yield and the better composition including more high value cuts suggests that the suckler type heifer yields some €500 more retail value than the dairy cross heifer.

“That’s a lot of added value which is not reflected in grid pricing. Moreover, dairy expansion means there are a lot more cattle in the lower grades – which are already heavily discounted on the grid – which means factories are saving a lot of money that simply wasn’t the case when the grid was introduced. This, combined with severe cuts on very heavy carcasses, suggests that factories are making a killing by not returning a fair share of the added value on R+ and U grade cattle which meet other market requirements.”

ICSA has taken a lead on this issue at the Beef Taskforce and we want the support of other farm organisations to ensure that Teagasc do the necessary research in a manner which will reassure farmers. At present, most farmers see the grid as a one-way process to screw the farmer. The appalling thing is that if suckler cattle got even half the extra value from higher meat yield, it would be better than any possible subsidy and would go a long way to saving suckler farming in Ireland.”

“ICSA will be pursuing this issue doggedly until we can see a fair return for suckler beef. It is also ICSA’s policy that PGI status should be pursued specifically for suckler beef and that no stone should be left unturned to develop a suckler beef brand. ICSA is also working on this issue with our partners in Farm Europe who want segmentation of the market whereby suckler beef is developed as a special high value product. Selling beef to China as a low price commodity is not going to solve the crisis facing the suckler herd,” concluded Mr Graham.