TEAGASC SUSTAINABILITY REPORT BLOWS APART CLIMATE CHANGE NARRATIVE ON SUCKLER BEEF

27 MARCH 2019

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the Teagasc Sustainability report has blown apart the narrative that suckler and beef farmers are the problem on climate change. “The suckler herd is clearly not the problem when cattle farming systems produce less than half the emissions of intensive dairy farming systems per hectare.”

“This revelation means that where a hectare of land is switched from sucklers to intensive dairy, GHG emissions double. ICSA has been arguing for a long time that cattle and sheep farmers should not be the scapegoats for our climate change challenges. For too long, there has been a veil of silence over the outrageous blame game directed at our members – extensive cattle and sheep farmers – whereby statistics were massaged to make it look like suckler farming in particular had to carry the burden of adjustment.”

“While there is no doubt that all sectors have to do their bit in being more efficient in terms of emissions, it is now time for all to recognise that cattle, sheep and tillage systems give rise to between 2 and 4.2 tonnes CO2/ha compared with 8.5 tonnes for intensive dairy. This has serious implications for policy. It calls into question the long standing advice to cattle and sheep farmers to intensify and expand output.”

ICSA has continuously questioned that advice because in the beef sector, increased output does nothing except drive down prices. Even worse, it leads to the sort of price gouging we see at the moment where surplus supplies are leading to scandalous cuts on bull beef producers where the most arbitrary weight limits are used to defraud farmers out of a fair price.

“It is nothing short of a crime to see farmers being cut to €3/kg for prime beef when the apparent price for bull beef is €3.60/kg just because the carcass is a few days over two years old and above 420kg. At the same time, farmers who try to kill bulls under the age and weight limits get hammered on low fat score. “

“Instead of this, we need to be marketing suckler beef as a speciality high value product. It now emerges that a hectare of land devoted to suckler beef is far lower in emissions than intensive dairying. Suckler farmers and suckler beef finishers are sick and tired of bearing the brunt of adverse and ill-informed commentary on climate change while at the same time being used and abused to advertise all beef.”

“ICSA is the only recognised farm organisation that is 100% unequivocally in favour of targeting PGI (Protected Geograpical Indication) status at low intensity, speciality suckler beef. It is now time that we abandon any plans to market all beef as one generic and thereby cheap commodity product. It is now time to focus efforts on getting exclusive PGI status for suckler beef with a view to delivering a premium and economically viable price for our sucklers.”

“I welcome the information in the Teagasc Sustainability report and ICSA wants to see this recognition of the low emissions from suckler and sheep sectors used for the benefit of our members in terms of marketing beef. We also want to see the lower per hectare emissions from the cattle, sheep and tillage sectors rewarded in the CAP reform.”

ENDS