A group of suckler farmers and pedigree breeders staged a protest outside an Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) stakeholder meeting in Tullamore last Thursday.

A huge amount of unrest remains among farmers around star ratings, the Teagasc model used to determine beef indexes, and proposed cow weights.

Seán Larkin, a pedigree Simmental breeder from Loughrea, Co Galway, told the Irish Farmers Journal that he has been “fleeced” by the ICBF as a result of the changes to star ratings.

“I had an overall reserve champion at Tullamore Show last year and that heifer has dropped from four stars to one star because of the changes.

“We entered the Beef Data and Genomics [Programme] and we did exactly what Seán Coughlan told us to do.

“Every bull I used was five star and I used them on the best of my cows. So now they’re telling us that what we did for four years is wrong and we’re being penalised.

“To see, overnight, that proper breeding heifers who were four and five stars were down is crazy,” he said.

Cow weights

Speaking about the proposed 450kg maximum cow weights, suckler farmer Tom Bowe from Durrow in Co Laois said that he has eight-month-old heifer weanlings weighing that much.

“These lads are judging our cattle off a computer. I see them walking in and out here today and it annoys me because I’d say none of them were brought up on a farm and have very little knowledge. A fair way of doing it is bring out someone with vast knowledge of beef cattle to your farm to judge your cattle,” he said.

Commercial Charolais and Limousin breeder Noel Kelly from Mullagh, Co Galway, said that the ICBF has devalued his stock “with one press of a button”.

“They’ve brought five star cows down to three- and two-star cows and they’ve brought bulls the same way. They’ve reduced a lot of bulls to factory price.

“Where they would have been worth €7,000 or €8,000, they’ve reduced that by half,” he said.

It is understood that ICBF could hold another meeting with stakeholders this Friday, as concerns around the new changes remain.