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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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‘Suckler sector under serious threat due to ongoing demands to reduce cow numbers’

In this news article, the INHFA’s vice-president expresses why the suckler sector is “vital” to rural Ireland’s economic wellbeing.

We in the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) are welcoming comments made by Minister McConalogue in support of our suckler sector.

There is a need to protect this sector, and any further decline in the sector will not just impact on the farmers but risks undermining the economic wellbeing of many rural communities.

Our suckler sector is, under serious threat due to ongoing demands to reduce cow numbers to deliver on the climate change targets.

This need is taking precedence over everything else, including reasoned discussion on the benefits of suckler farming from a socio-economic and environmental perspective.

In assessing our farming systems and specifically the suckler sector, it is vital that we consider the following:

With suckler farming dominant in many parts of the country where other farming options are not realistic due to constraints such as soil type, terrain and fragmented holdings.

Then what impact assessment (both social and economic) has been conducted on any further reduction in suckler numbers across these communities? Will there be a future for our marts in those areas?

As suckler farming is predominantly extensive in nature, why has there been a reluctance to take on board the EU Commission Report titled ‘Grazing for Carbon’.

This report has clearly identified the merits of extensive farming systems in relation to sequestering carbon and could provide a vital marketing opportunity for suckler beef.

Marketing budget

Currently, Bord Bia has a marketing budget of €2m/year for the promotion of naturally reared suckler beef.

If we continue to label suckler cows as an issue in relation to climate change and force or encourage a reduction, then this will clearly undermine the promotion of suckler beef.

There is, we believe, a massive opportunity to market naturally reared suckler beef, both from an environmentally sustainable and animal husbandry perspective.

To do this, we will need to differentiate it from other beef options, but we are concerned there is not an appetite with Bord Bia or our meat processors to do this. However, it is important that they clarify this.

Finally, in relation to climate change, it is vital that we act on the evidence and address these issues in the areas where the EPA tells us the problems are. This is not in the areas where suckler farming dominates.

There is a need to protect our suckler sector, and the INHFA will not support any cull of our suckler cows.

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