Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Beef grid 'broken' as suckler herd hit

Published 29/03/2016 | 02:30

ICSA's Edmond Phelan
ICSA's Edmond Phelan

Weight limits have removed any major benefits from the controversial beef grid, with the suckler herd the real losers, a farm body has warned.

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Co-op body ICOS agreed to seek a meeting with the Agriculture Department and Minister on a number of issues surrounding the quality payment system (QPS) after a meeting between the farm bodies.

"Weight limits have taken away any benefits that should have arisen out of the grid and the suckler herd is the clear loser," said the ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan.

"The U grade is coming out of the suckler herd and in theory they should be benefiting. Therefore the whole payment structure is broken. They are being penalised at the top end and hammered at the low end."

It follows a discussion between ICOS, the ICSA, ICMSA, IFA and Macra on the grid.

ICOS claimed the 70-day pre-slaughter movement restrictions were "anti-trade", as it pointed out the Bord Bia beef and lamb quality assurance scheme allows for multiple movement between quality assured farms.

It pointed out many of the UK retailers, such as Tesco and M&S, do not have a 70-day rule and questioned the reasons Irish meat factories were describing it as a customer requirement.

"The quality payment system is now seven years old and it's time to review it," said ICOS marts committee chair Michael Spellman.

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"In grading cattle, there is no doubt that the yield and quality of meat from a U grade suckler bred animal is far better than a P grade carcase from the dairy herd. It's only right that quality suckler production is rewarded for investment in breeding and feeding."

Mr Spellman said many Irish factories have developed large feedlots which can throughput thousands of animals and "dampen market prices". He highlighted US legislation to outlaw processors owning feedlots and urged the EU to follow this example.

The ICMSA's livestock chair Michael Guinan said farmers feel the QPS has become "one-sided" and it has outlived its "usefulness".

Losses

An analysis from the IFA shows Irish farmers would lose €10.6m a year - or an average of €79 per head - if the limits on heavier carcases weighing in at more than 420kg was in play across the board.

The IFA's livestock chairman Henry Burns said carcase weight and age are the major specification factors impacting on price returns to farmers and knocking them out of receiving in-spec bonuses under the Quality Payment System (QPS).

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said the QPS was "critically important" in terms of rewarding quality and market suitability.

It stated it was not opposed to a review but questioned what groups calling for one hoped to achieve.

All of the farm bodies agreed key issues included carcase weight limit penalties, the 30-month age limit, residencies and the 70-day retention, a lack of Department of Agriculture monitoring on carcase trim and classification and a bonus for all livestock sold from Bord Bia quality assured farms.

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