Goodman: Don't turn the beef industry into dairy by-product

Rise in dairy-bred cattle a concern, says ABP's Mark Goodman as farmers decry 'corporate greed'

Mark Goodman, Commercial Director ABP Food Group.
Mark Goodman, Commercial Director ABP Food Group.
Mark Goodman, Commercial Director ABP Food Group.
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Intervention is needed if Irish beef is to be prevented from turning into a by-product of the dairy industry, Mark Goodman, managing director of ABP International, has warned.

Speaking exclusively to the Farming Independent, he described the increase in dairy-bred cattle as a concern and said intervention from the industry is needed to ensure the beef produced in Ireland is not just a by-product of the dairy industry.

Goodman said there needs to be an intervention by Government and the Department of Agriculture, Meat Industry Ireland and the farming organisations to work with the dairy farmer to increase or improve the quality of the beef animal that is being bred off the dairy herd.

He also said that while China presents great potential for the Irish beef sector, it won't resolve our reliance on the UK for beef exports.

It comes as hundreds of beef farmers protested last week over what they say is "corporate greed and factories hanging them out to dry". IFA has calculated that since last autumn beef farmers have incurred losses of €101m on Brexit-related beef price cuts.

'It's not fair to compare Irish and UK beef prices'

Despite this, Goodman says Irish beef exports are at a disadvantage when it comes to price globally and the Irish cattle price has to reflect Ireland's position as a world beef exporter. Price, he said, is determined by supply and demand.

"The Irish cattle price was 105pc of the EU average for the full year 2018. The British cattle price is historically higher because British consumers will buy British first. Irish beef has to earn its place in that market. It's that or be taken out by imports from other nations.

"It's also important to note the practical issue of carcass balance, on average, Ireland exports around 50pc of its beef to the UK market. The balance of Ireland's beef must be exported to other EU and international markets where cattle prices are more competitive and imports from Third Countries more common.

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"There's no point saying the English price is €4.20/kg so that's what we should be getting in Ireland. That's not a balanced argument for an export nation."

While beef exports to China may rise to 25,000t per annum, he warned that China, or any Asian country, won't take away Ireland's reliance on the UK.

"We must as a country, the Government, the industry and farmers, we must find a way to continue to supply the UK.

"In a hard Brexit, it's not a good story and it will need Government intervention."

He said in the case of full or partial WTO tariffs being applied to Irish beef going to the UK, the Government should provide a Tariff Support Mechanism, whereby a pool of money should be put in place to protect the industry and farmers from what would be an existential crisis.

Ireland, though, he warned is running the risk of seeing its beef become a by-product of the dairy industry.

"A dairy farmer with 100 cows, needs 30-40 replacements. The rest of the calves can be left on a Friesian bull. This is not good. We've been trying to get Angus or Hereford bulls into the dairy gene pool, and with the right genetics."

Following that up the chain, he says, "we don't want P or even O-grade dairy bred Angus or Hereford beef, that's no help to anyone. We need to drive the quality graph of dairy bred Angus and Hereford beef to an average of an R or an R+ grade. If we achieve this, we will have a sustainable system for all stakeholders"

He also said he would like to see farmers supported with on-farm efficiencies and initiatives to improve genetics to bring cattle to slaughter younger, faster and more efficiently, putting more meat on the bone every day, using less inputs.

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