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Independent.ie

Saturday 10 December 2016

Dairy to beef systems the way forward says climate change study

But ICSA says proposals "unlikely to impress farmers"

Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30

The report points out that up to 400,000 additional calves will become available because of dairy expansion
The report points out that up to 400,000 additional calves will become available because of dairy expansion

A move from sucklers to dairy calf to beef systems and linking dairy expansion to forestry and agro-forestry are among the key measures being proposed to tackle Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions.

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A joint report on climate smart agriculture from Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) and the RDS recommends providing incentives to encourage farmers into dairy to beef systems.

"There is going to be an output from the dairy sector in terms of calves that will not be needed in the dairy sector," said report co-author and IIEA director Tom Arnold.

"The levels of profitability in the suckler cow herd are also very low and so I think this may be an opportunity to begin to address that issue."

The report points out that up to 400,000 additional calves will become available because of dairy expansion

However, the ICSA said the report makes little contribution to the fundamental question of how to ensure viability for Ireland's family farms.

Carbon sink

ICSA president Patrick Kent said the report's scenarios on the beef and dairy sector were compromised when there seems to be "little will to account for sequestration in grass and to offset it against emissions.

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"Advising that farmers should abandon one low paying enterprise (sucklers) for an even worse one - trying to rear dairy calves that won't even grade to achieve the QPS bonus - is unlikely to impress farmers," he said.

"A debate is required on the cost of expansion and greater intensification which has been sadly under-estimated especially when we see the impact on milk price of extra production."

IIEA/RDS report also highlights the potential of linking dairy cow expansion to forestry and agro-forestry as part of a move towards carbon neutral agriculture.

Mr Arnold said there were many legitimate reasons, including carbon sinks and income potential, to support the expansion of forestry.

"But there are very legitimate concerns about the future of rural communities and social infrastructure," he added.

"We are going to have to face up to and talk about those concerns," he said.

ICMSA president John Comer said any moves to restrict food production in carbon efficient countries like Ireland would make "no sense".

It comes as the European Commission is due to publish its proposals on climate change to all member states tomorrow.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said it was predicted Ireland would fall short of its targets for 2020. He said they were working to ensure the commission understood Ireland's unique position in terms of the size of its agriculture sector.

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