The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has said that the situation facing drystock farmers with regards to increasing input costs is vastly different to the one facing dairy farmers, who it says are being buoyed by high milk prices.

No measures have been introduced which could ease the situation facing beef and sheep farmers, who are not seeing higher input prices reflected in factory quotes, the drystock group has stated.

This is despite indications that support was on its way from the Department of Agriculture, it added.

'Nothing has been done'

The effect of the cost crisis is hitting farm incomes more than Brexit, the association’s beef chair Edward Graham said.

“To date, nothing has been done to help beef, suckler and sheep farmers.

"Absolutely no real financial assistance has been forthcoming, despite repeated assurances that such assistance would be made available to offset spiralling input costs,” claimed Graham.

“This crisis is bigger than Brexit in terms of the hit to farm incomes on cattle, sheep and suckler farms.

“We need real measures - that will have a real impact - if we are to prevent thousands of drystock farmers going out of business,” he said.

Emergency committee

The beef chair went on to say that the emergency stakeholders’ group assembled by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has not yet made any tangible difference to the struggles of drystock farmers.

“Cattle and sheep farmers can take zero comfort from the establishment of a fodder and food security committee, because it hasn’t alleviated any difficulties around the affordability of feed, fuel or fertiliser.

“While the dairy sector is being buoyed by significant price rises and any amount of assistance from the dairy processors, the same cannot be said for the drystock sector, who are facing a complete collapse in incomes,” he said.

Farm income outlook

Although the recently-released Teagasc outlook for farm incomes may not have been as blunt, the ICSA stated that the reality of farming is completely different for the non-dairy sectors that have yet to see output prices keep pace with the rise in costs.

“Teagasc were very circumspect in their updated Situation and Outlook for Agriculture 2022 published last week, but the stark reality was there in black and white; dairy incomes will remain steady, while those of beef, suckler, and sheep farmers will fall, with the end result being that dairy farmers look set to earn 10 to 15 times more than cattle and sheep farmers this year.

“This Minister and this Government must face up to the fact that the beef, suckler and sheep sectors are much more vulnerable than the dairying sector,” said Graham.

The role of factories in ensuring the viability of beef and sheep farms cannot be overlooked either, he continued.

“[The] ICSA is adamant that €7/kg will be needed next spring to cover such inflated production costs and to allow a minor profit for the effort.

“Factories cannot be allowed to stay silent and offer neither guidance nor assistance or forward price guarantees to their suppliers,” he concluded.

Sheep farmers

Sheep chair John McNamara compared the cost of fertiliser with the price quoted by factories for lambs.

He went on to state that price hikes were being seen right across the board and not just on fertiliser receipts.

“We have seen lamb prices in late March and April anywhere from 25c/kg to 50c/kg back on last year. This is incredible in the context of escalating costs,” the sheep farmer said.

“Last year, two lambs at €160/head would have bought 1.16t of 27% nitrogen. This year, it would take seven lambs to buy the same amount.

“Even simple things have absolutely rocketed – a wheel for a wheelbarrow is now €45 compared to €15 18 months ago,” he said.