One of the targets highlighted is the reduction of the average age of slaughter of “prime animals” (beef bulls, steers and heifers, excluding cull cows and stock bulls).
The introduction of incentives to lower the average age of slaughter of cattle is only in the early discussion stages. Minister McConalogue has suggested it could be a mix of Government and industry incentives.
We know the science supports lowering slaughter age and the industry is open to engaging on this
Highlighting its current financial support for the Teagasc Signpost Programme and AHI’s beef Healthcheck programme, and its involvement with ICBF and Meat Technology Ireland in research, Meat Industry Ireland said: “We know the science supports lowering slaughter age and the industry is open to engaging on this. While one aspect may be how this is incentivised in the future, we also need to understand how the Government will support such efforts at farm level.”
IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden was cautious about any factory-led slaughter incentive: “There’s little point in taking money from one farmer to give it to another.”
Calving dates might be targeted to have more beef animals autumn-calved and finished from grass in their second grazing season
Reducing the average age from 27 to 24 months doesn’t necessarily mean trying to finish all cattle at two years old. Angus cattle should be finished long before 24 months, continental cattle would have to be pushed very hard to reach such a target. Bulls finish before steers, particularly dairy beef – there might be incentives to that end. Calving dates might be targeted to have more beef animals autumn-calved and finished from grass in their second grazing season.
Promoting intensive housed finishing will increase the volume of concentrates fed, and could actually increase the carbon footprint of an animal. This would be an even more notable factor if the carbon footprint of feedstuffs imported from the far side of the world becomes a part of carbon-counting.
There is room for efficiency gains within systems to finish cattle younger but the elephant in the room is under 16-month bulls finished on Irish-based ration. Will the factories give in and take them? It is one of the most carbon-efficient systems there is.