Numbers back up as farmers take to protest at factory gates


Delvin Mart. Luke Smith herds his cattle into the mart. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Delvin Mart. Luke Smith herds his cattle into the mart. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

THE resumption of farmer protests outside factory gates yesterday morning came as a surprise to many in the farming community. Indeed, some of those I spoke with who have cattle ready to sell were cautious about welcoming a return to militant action.

The jury is out on whether this protest is wise, given that what was achieved at the last round of talks has yet to be implemented.

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The inclusion of the O- grade and the 4+ fat score when quality payments are being made is welcome. Cynics might say the O-grade is only of benefit to dairy stock.

The reality is that the bigger benefit will be seen by those finishers with Hereford and Angus animals. Both breeds are prone to putting on extra fat so that 4+ concession has to be welcomed, plus breed conformation has declined as dairy farmers took up the option of going Angus or Hereford with at least some of their replacements.

I was told one of the bigger processing groups shelved plans to pull their prices back that 5c/kg to €3.45 and €3.65/kg upon hearing action was planned.

As always, it's the numbers that matter. Last week's kill of 34,204 was a return to pre-Beef Plan protest levels.

Returning to those renewed protests, with no official organisation to discuss issues with the factories, if they choose to speak to those outside their gates they will do so piece meal. Local deals with no official recognition may result.

I said last week that the issues driving these protests are more to do with an entire generation who feel they have been cheated than with actual current factory prices. I stand by that assertion.

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There is no doubting at all the genuine sense of anger felt by many who see their way of life coming to an end as the next generation turn their back on farming.

I have also said over the last month that the EU has to bear some responsibility for where suckler farmers now find themselves.

If the single farm payment had been index linked, many of those protesting would have all their bills paid and would not be standing on the side of the road. s.

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