Beef: 'Trophy husband' material and hobby farming - is this the future for beef men?
Published 13/07/2016 | 02:30
The last few weeks have shown us once again that beef farming is certainly not for the faint-hearted. As the UK struggles to figure out whether it has returned to the halcyon days of glorious empire or simply thrown its favourite toy out of the pram in a moment of childish petulance, the time has come for the rest of the EU including ourselves to plot the way forward.
As usual it is the cattle sector which is the most vulnerable to these sudden shocks so it's no surprise that the Brexit vote caused a sudden drop in the price of beef. Neither does it come as a surprise that cattle farmers are once again left to fend for themselves.
Emergency EU funding is invariably focused on other farming sectors. So not alone does the cattle sector now have to cope with falling farm gate prices, but we are also experiencing decreases in EU beef supports.
If the cattle sector ever needed help, it is now, so the timing of the Teagasc Beef 2016 Open Day could not have been better. It was therefore with a great deal of hope and expectation that I set off for Grange.
I must say that for me, the tone for the whole day was set by the emphasis which the many speakers placed on putting farm efficiency before farm output. This practical approach was very refreshing especially as were shown the reality of how even a very well run 100ac beef enterprise will return little more than the national minimum wage.
Low incomes in the cattle sector were in fact the real elephant in the room at Grange and the figures beg the question as to what cattle farming is really about.
Is it a hobby or is it simply driven by some strange form of old fashioned pride? We have all heard of trophy wives, but I recently heard of young cattle farmers being eyed up as 'trophy husband' material for young women with large salaries wishing to marry into a supposedly idyllic rural lifestyle.
Another aspect of Beef 2016 which I also found interesting was the apparent conflict between the growing intensification of cattle farming and the increasing emphasis in Brussels on biodiversity and sustainability.