Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Dairy growth poses threat to future of suckler sector

Factories' grading system is 'out-dated' warns former IFA deputy president

April Higgins, Claremorris; Maeve Regan, Cloonfad, Co. Roscommon; John Heslin, Mullingar and Stephen Mullin, Kilmaine,Co.Mayo at the Irish Grassland Association's Beef Conference and Farm Walk on Tom Halpin's farm Carlanstown, Kells, Co. Meath.
April Higgins, Claremorris; Maeve Regan, Cloonfad, Co. Roscommon; John Heslin, Mullingar and Stephen Mullin, Kilmaine,Co.Mayo at the Irish Grassland Association's Beef Conference and Farm Walk on Tom Halpin's farm Carlanstown, Kells, Co. Meath.
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

The national suckler herd is in danger of being consumed by the dairy industry, former IFA deputy president Derek Deane has claimed.

"Dairy has grown dramatically in terms of numbers. That is putting a lot of extra poorer grade animals on the market," Mr Deane told the Irish Grasslands Association beef conference.

Mr Deane said all of the emphasis on improving breeding in animals is pointless if it is not reflected in the end price for animals.

"I think the job for the industry and the processors is to try and reflect to the producer what the market wants and give a premium for that. We have to look at that on an ongoing basis. I think the grading system that we have is outdated," said Mr Deane who was speaking from the audience.

"If we're looking at efficiency and we're looking at environmental changes and all of the rest, the opposition will be getting more efficient and we can't see ourselves being left behind.

Paul Nolan of Dawn Meats said Mr Deane's points were valid but stressed that consumers and retailers want smaller lower value cuts.

"Meat yield is very, very important of course. But if we end up talking about the meat yield of a striploin that's weighing 12 to 14 to 15 kilos I can guarantee you the value of that cut here, vis a vis one that's only weighing six or seven kilos in a supermarket in Europe, is going to affect all of our pockets," he said.

When pressed on the meat processing sector still grading cattle on technology introduced more than 15 years ago, Mr Nolan said he would support a review.

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"The technology that is being used has been around for quite a while," he said.

"It took a long time to get it there in the first place and get it agreed because the criticism of the old system was that we were depending on the human eye. I think what we have achieved is a consistency in grading, but I would never ever say that we shouldn't review the technology that is there.

"I think if there is a forum or a willingness to come together and do that to get agreement and consensus, it would be worthwhile," he said.

Meanwhile, Mike Egan, Teagasc advisor at Moorepark, highlighted the economic value of quality grass management.

"The value of grass is not seen to the level that it should be. Managing a farm to produce more grass is likely to feed into increased farm profit irrespective of beef price," he said.

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