2 AUGUST 2017
ICSA suckler chairman John Halley has said that the decision to make the ICBF levy compulsory on all new born calf tags from 1 November should be preceded by an open and transparent debate about the best model for funding ICBF and its role in the development of cattle and sheep breeding.
The Minister did not consult with ICSA on the decision to make this levy compulsory, which Mr Halley described as unacceptable. “We need a more comprehensive debate about the direction of cattle breeding in the context of dairy expansion, in a country where beef and cattle exports are still phenomenally important.”
ICSA believes that while ICBF has put huge resources into beef breeding in recent years, beef interests are under represented on the board of ICBF. “We need to look at how this can be remedied. ICSA is excluded from decision making at ICBF board level and beef breed societies are manifestly under-represented. The development of intellectual property from the data supplied by farmers is looking like an increasingly important facet of the ICBF model and it is clear that how this is monetised is a matter for all farming representatives, not just some.”
In addition, Mr Halley said that there was a variety of factors which determine profitability in suckling which also supported the need for broad based debate and, ultimately, decisions at board level. “Weight gain must be balanced against price/kg and both must be balanced against cow calving interval and numbers of live calves weaned.”
“We also need to be able to question the new dogma in dairy breeding which completely devalues the beef merit of the calf in favour of a low maintenance small cow that calves within a six week period and produces high fat and protein. The strategy for dairy breeding is entirely in keeping with New Zealand farming models where the bull calves are killed at birth.”
“If we want New Zealand breeding outcomes, then we have to accept the consequences of that but this is not discussed openly when we determine Irish dairy breeding strategy. Unfortunately, it is the beef farmers and, indirectly, the suckler farmers who end up carrying the consequences of these decisions.”
“The levy model has got a very bad reputation as a result of lack of transparency around levies for other organisations and it is no surprise that many farmers have opted out of the levy on calf tags for reasons that have little to do with ICBF. However, ICBF should not be tarnished unfairly with the same brush. ICBF has been to the fore in building databases which are a huge asset to cattle breeding in Ireland.”
Farmer influence on ICBF is not something that should be let slip through other funding models but it is timely to look at the make-up of farmer representation,” he concluded.