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HomeBeef‘Ireland’s suckler herd is unfairly blamed for having a negative environmental impact’
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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‘Ireland’s suckler herd is unfairly blamed for having a negative environmental impact’

The Beef Plan Movement has handed a petition, with over 1,200 signatures, to the Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, advising him to “keep his hands off the suckler herd”.

This formed part of the farm group’s meeting with Minister McConalogue yesterday (Wednesday).

A delegation made “detailed” presentations on all areas of the group’s CAP submission.

In a statement to That’s Farming, the group listed their two “single biggest areas of concern” with the proposed suckler scheme.

  • The unfair singling out of the suckler cows for a cap;
  • Also, introducing Bord Bia audits as a compulsory element.
Bord Bia

The group told the minister the measures are “completely unacceptable” and stressed that the DAFM must revisit these conditions.

“The Department of Agriculture has proposed a cap on farmers’ suckler herds as a condition of qualifying for the new suckler scheme.”

“Being a member of Bord Bia Quality Assurance should not be a compulsory element to the new suckler scheme.”

“Many small-scale farmers throughout the country sell weanlings and a few suckler cows.”

“Currently, there is no QA bonus available for both weanlings and suckler cows, so why should these farmers, who don’t finish cattle, go through the hassle of a Bord Bia inspection if there is no financial reward for it?”

Fears of inspectors and audits

The group said farmers have participated in the BDGP scheme. However, making Bord Bia a compulsory element of the new suckler scheme will “drive them away in their droves”.

“Quite simply, an older generation of farmers, predominately in the west of Ireland with a fear of inspectors and audits, are not going to bother with it.”

The statement added that one of the CAP reform’s aims is to reduce bureaucracy.

However, this move, it feels, “clearly does the opposite and adds another layer, which is completely unnecessary and has no clear environmental benefit”.

“It also serves to divert CAP money away from the small suckler farmers in the west of Ireland, who promote biodiversity and keep rural communities alive to Bord Bia.”

ICBF’s star ratings

Beef Plan claims that it was the only farm organisation to raise concerns with linking the suckler CAP payments to ICBF’s star ratings.

“We have asked that the impacts of the star ratings are independently verified before, the suckler herd is shackled with them for another five years.”

“Beef Plan believes that Ireland’s suckler herd is being unfairly blamed for having a negative environmental impact on our countryside.”

“It also serves to divert CAP money away from the small suckler farmers in the west of Ireland.”

The group stated that Ireland’s suckler herd is

  • Is environmentally sustainable. It believes transition away from suckler farming that has driven our agriculture emissions upward;
  • Generates economic activity in rural areas that need it most;
  • Is part of the social fabric which keeps our rural culture alive;
  • Due to our low input usage and low stocking density, most suckler farms remove more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit, making them environmentally friendly.
  • This low stocking rate and grazing of pastures improve biodiversity, where a wide diversity of plant species can thrive.
  • Is a source of top-quality stock for our beef industry. These stock have a high conversion ratio of feed to protein, making them ultra-efficient;
  • Our suckler herd has a positive public image as the calf is reared naturally with its mother. The group said that it is “invaluable” when marketing our product.

Further reading from the Beef Plan Movement:

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