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Action Needed To Protect Suckler Cow Herd

12 August 2010

IRELAND - Speaking at the National Livestock Show in Tullamore, Irish Farmers' Association National Livestock Committee Chairman Michael Doran said to achieve the beef and livestock growth targets of 20% or €300m per annum set out in the 2020 Food Harvest Report, the Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith must take urgent action to halt the decline in the National Suckler Cow herd.

Mr Doran said due to the lack of profitability in the livestock sector at farm level, the Suckler Cow herd is under severe pressure and has fallen by 150,000 head from its peak in 2005. He said this level of reduction in beef cow numbers amounts to an output loss close to €150m each year.

He called on the Minister for Agriculture to fully restore the payment rate of €80 per cow under the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme and insist that there are no cuts to any direct payments to farmers in the next Budget.

Michael Doran said the Suckler Cow herd is a national asset and the backbone of the €1.9bn beef and livestock sector. “Minister Smith must take urgent action to halt the decline in beef cow numbers and protect Ireland’s national beef asset. The Suckler Cow herd is the basis of quality Irish beef exports and our ability to penetrate higher priced UK and European retail outlets. Top quality beef from the extensive grass-based suckler herd is the key to maintaining and growing Irish beef exports, currently stocked by over 70 major retailers across Europe.”

Michael Doran said the level of bureaucracy under the Suckler Cow Welfare scheme needs to be reduced and aspects of the scheme simplified. He said farmers are frustrated that payments are being held up and the scheme is getting bogged down in administration and paperwork.

The IFA Livestock Chairman said strong cattle prices are also essential to profitability in the beef and livestock sector and he threw down the challenge to the meat factories to close the price gap between Irish, UK and EU cattle prices. He said prices to date this year are 3% below last years’ levels and at the current level of €3.10/kg, are 10c to 40c/kg below EU prices.

To date this year, cattle slaughterings at the factories are up 108,000 head or 13 per cent ahead of last years’ levels. Live exports are up 70,000 head on 2009 levels at 256,000 to August 1st.

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