In this article, INHFA leader, Vincent Roddy, expressed why his farm group believes that sustainable suckler farming cannot be the scapegoat on climate action.
We are cautioning against proposals for any further reduction in our suckler herd.
Government-imposed targets to deliver a reduction in our overall emissions, specifically a 22% to 30% reduction in agriculture, must not involve further reductions to our suckler sector.
This sector has seen a significant reduction over the last ten years.
Numbers have fallen by 160,000 cows, from 1,067,398 in 2012 to 907,059 in 2021, representing a 15% fall in our overall herd.
While increases in other sectors of agriculture have offset this reduction, it is absolutely unacceptable that there would be any further reductions demanded here.
However, what is even more disturbing are proposals made by some commentators, that our suckler sector should be sacrificed to allow further expansion of the dairy sector.
Sustainable suckler farming
When assessing our farming systems and their impact with regards to GHG emissions, the vast majority of our suckler farmers are maintained.
They are operating an extensive farming system that enables the sequestration of carbon, a fact that an EU report titled, Grazing for Carbon has also confirmed.
These farmers are delivering for the environment and the economy and must be supported.
Those same suckler farmers contribute €2.9 billion and 52,000 full-time jobs to our local economy, as highlighted in a study undertaken by Prof Michael Wallace.
This naturally reared beef is a product that can deliver a premium price.
The challenge is for our state, the beef processors and Bord Bia to develop markets that can deliver this price.
Ultimately, we need the same ambition and drive applied here as has been applied in promoting our dairy products.
With ambition such as this, we can ensure a thriving suckler industry, that is a unique product, delivering in terms of carbon sequestration and improved biodiversity and is rewarded in the marketplace for those reasons.
For the government, NGOs or anyone else serious about delivering for the environment, what better way is there of encouraging our farmers than recognising and paying for an environmental product delivered through sustainable agriculture?
I challenge those that continue to push for a reduction in our suckler herd.
The need to move past this lazy narrative and recognise the massive potential our suckler sector has in terms of environmental and economic benefit.