‘We need action on suckler sector before it is too late’
BY WAY of introduction to your readers, my name is MJ Clery and I present a weekly agri programme on Midlands 103 radio which covers the counties of Laois, Offaly and Westmeath. I recently interviewed Kevin McGuire, the President of the Irish Charolais Society, in relation to a letter published in this newspaper on August 22.
Kevin gave an impassioned interview where he stated that suckler farmers were now the bottom rung of the beef ladder.
The morning after this interview, the phones in our studio were extremely busy with suckler farmers calling to commend Kevin’s comments and give their support.
As a farmer who was raised on a suckler farm, I feel that these comments are not over the top and I agree with them.
We have heard figures ranging from €600 to €700 to keep a suckler cow. How can a ge- neric figure of this nature be given and farmers expected to believe it?
Each individual enterprise is totally different, the majority of suckler farms are not costly systems of production.
I would argue that on some farms, the cost of keeping a suckler cow could be half this figure. The ICBF star ratings are another area which needs examination, to reiterate a comment by Kevin, why are suckler farmers now being force fed replacements from the dairy herd?
Aberdeen Angus heifers regularly come in at 4 or 5 star on the replacement index due to their high milk yields however, in reality they will not be mothers to quality cattle.
I have always heard that it is not possible obtain a U grade animal from anything less than an R grade cow.
Simply put, I don’t believe the majority of these replacement heifers are good enough to produce high quality carcasses. Is the reality that it suits everybody involved in agriculture for Ireland to become a large scale dairy nation? Farmers up to their eyes in debt, buying inputs, building sheds and spending money.
No thought given to these farmers in relation to the work life balance. Push the suckler man out and leave room for these farmers who will make everybody more money. Quality cattle are becoming a thing of the past in marts.
What will occur when a good suckler replacement cannot be sourced and the smaller parcels of land in certain areas where suckler cows have been the livelihood for generations are no more? Rural Ireland is already on the verge of collapse and this is simply another nail on the coffin. Its time to do something before its too late.