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HomeBeefOpinion: Reducing the slaughter age will undermine suckler sector
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Opinion: Reducing the slaughter age will undermine suckler sector

In this news article, Vincent Roddy, INHFA president, warns of what he regards as dangers to the suckler sector by proposals from the Food Vision Climate Action Plan, which his association walked away from last November.

Of immediate concern for the suckler sector is the proposal to reduce the age of slaughter to under 24 months.

This proposal is an immediate threat to suckler farmers with larger carcass breeds that cannot be finished at the ages proposed but will also impact other areas of the beef industry by creating a glut of cattle for slaughter each spring.

These are issues of concern we raised last November and are issues that have also been raised by many others since.

Unfortunately, the minister seems determined to persist with this proposal irrespective of these concerns, which clearly undermines a stated objective of his – that being to protect the suckler sector.

Reducing the age of slaughter

In assessing the proposal and specifically the reasoning behind it, I am adamant that slaughtering younger cattle with much lighter carcasses will do nothing to reduce emissions and could, in fact, see emissions increase.

When assessing this, we must assess the efficiency of the animal in producing a kilo of beef rather than the age of the animal, which is currently proposed.

Beyond this, we must also recognise how a 24-month slaughter date will reduce farmers’ ability to maximise beef gain from grass by ruling out the second grazing season.

This goes totally against the sustainable farming model as it will involve feeding high levels of concentrates, thus increasing the overall emissions.

With regard to the proposed cull of suckler cows, I welcome the decision from the minister to scrap this proposal.

This, if introduced, would do enormous reputational damage to our naturally reared suckler beef sector and was something we discussed in length with the minister prior to Christmas.

Following on from this decision, we are now calling on the Minister to use the money planned for the reduction and exit proposal to support our suckler sector through a new welfare-type suckler scheme targeting extensive suckler systems.

Such support in conjunction with an aggressive marketing campaign can help deliver a sustainable future for our suckler farmers and the communities they support.

I am calling on the minister to look again at the science that is promoting the reduction in the age of slaughter and to give strong consideration to a new welfare suckler scheme across our extensive suckler systems.

Previous farming news article from the INHFA on ‘Suckler sector under serious threat due to ongoing demands to reduce cow numbers’

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