The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) has proposed a suckler cow payment of €200 per head per year for a period of five years as an incentive package for farmers to reduce suckler numbers.

Reacting to the recent report from the Climate Change Advisory Council, which advocates a cut in suckler numbers of up to 53%, ICSA suckler chair John Halley said: “If they or the Government want people to get out of suckler farming, there must be policies and strategies in place to facilitate that - something we don’t have at present.”

The €200/head payment, which the ICSA is calling a suckler redirection scheme, must now be given serious consideration, Halley said.

“At present, we have an oversupply of beef in Europe which has not been caused by the suckler herd. Rather, this is down to the dramatic increase in the dairy herd and it has compounded the complete lack of profitability in the suckler sector.

“When you add to this the pressures of climate change mitigation, there is the possibility that alterative income sources could have an appeal. However, the need for a holistic approach to viable alternatives is apparent,” he said.

EU-wide basis

ICSA has proposed that this scheme should be available on an EU-wide basis at a rate of €200 per head per annum for up to five years, on a strictly voluntary basis.

The scheme would be based on a reference year of 2018 and the payment would be linked to the reduction in calves registered compared to 2018.

Halley stressed the importance of the voluntary nature of any such scheme.

“Under no circumstances will suckler farmers be used as scapegoats to balance the books of uncontrolled dairy expansion. This strategy would also expose the hypocrisy of Food Wise 2025 expansion targets by sending out a clear signal that anything less than €200 per cow net profit is unacceptable and unsustainable.

“It would expose the deadly consensus that farmers should be satisfied with just breaking even.”

Switch to dairying

An ICSA spokesperson said that farmers could choose to go back into suckler production after five years if they deem it viable. Farmers can also switch to producing beef from the dairy herd during the five years or switch to dairying, the spokesperson said.

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