Dairy beef and false figures fall in the firing line at ICSA AGM
At the recent ICSA AGM, ICSA president Patrick Kent told Minister Creed that new thinking was needed.

At the ICSA AGM, president Patrick Kent called for an end to production cost figures that do not make any effort to include a farmer’s own labour cost.

At the event titled “Beef on the Brink”, Kent said the mood among beef farmers was despondent. He told Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, who was in attendance, that a complete re-think was needed.

Kent referenced figures compiled by beef finisher Billy Glasheen that were published in the Irish Farmers Journal which showed his cost of production to be between €5/kg and €5.30/kg.

Sustainability begins and ends with a price for the farmer that covers all costs and leaves a margin

Kent bluntly stated: “This is higher than Teagasc figures which are still in excess of €4/kg because Billy Glasheen has the novel idea that farmers should be paid for their labour.”

He said the days of defending Teagasc’s approach were long gone and that the days of supermarkets and factories exploiting farmers on false costs must end.

Dairy re-evaluation

Kent also called for a re-evaluation of dairy expansion as “the idea that extra bull calves the idea that all these extra bull calves will be reared at a loss is not sustainable”.

The phrase sustainable expansion came in for strong criticism by the president as he said it had been used and abused.

“Sustainability begins and ends with a price for the farmer that covers all costs and leaves a margin.”

Kent said the only rational conclusion for the beef sector was to reduce production in order to cut costs and make beef scarcer.

He again referenced Billy Glasheen’s figures saying farmers should understand that buying a P or O grade calf when beef price was at €3.75/kg for R grades was “completely unviable”.

“There is no escaping the fashion for Jersey and Kiwi cross which is dominating larger expanding, grass based herds.

"The problem is that these calves are totally unsustainable for calf to beef systems.

“Even if you gave a beef farmer €165 along with the calf, there is still no profitability in feeding these calves.”

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'Alternatives' to sucklers needed – Boyle
Low-income suckler farming is facing the twin threat of Brexit and climate change, with farmers considering other options, Teagasc director Gerry Boyle has said.

Speaking on RTE's Countrywide show on Saturday, the head of Teagasc raised question marks over the future of suckler farming beyond next month's immediate Brexit threat.

"There has to be compensation in the event of a no-deal, because the potential implications would be just catastrophic," Boyle said, describing as "good news" current discussions on farmer compensation for up to three years.

"Beef farm incomes would drop by around half," he warned. "In the longer term, of course, the real worry is that the British would revert to their traditional cheap food policy."

Such a shift in the UK market, which imports over half of Ireland's beef production, would force deep change.

Even on our research farms, it is still very challenging to make any kind of a decent margin

"If you look at the suckling sector, which is a hugely challenged sector, even on our research farms with the best technical applications, it is still very challenging to make any kind of a decent margin," he said.

"On the fattening side, certainly if you factor in subsidies and direct payments, there are some producers doing very well."

Boyle accepted broadcaster Damien O'Reilly's suggestion that suckler farmers should look for "alternatives" past the proposed three-year Brexit compensation scheme.

He said some farmers have already switched to dairy and interest remained high in Teagasc's dairying and farm manager courses, with around 50 students currently enrolled in its new entrant course alone. However, he warned of the high level of investment needed: "You need to get basic training, dairying is a very different business and lifestyle."

Greenhouse gas emissions

At the same time, Boyle warned of the pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

With no "magic bullet" for agriculture comparable to electric cars in transport, he said a combination of new farming techniques, reduced stock numbers and afforestation would be required.

"Emissions and livestock numbers go hand in hand. How that's going to pan out in terms of the distribution between dairy cattle and beef cattle is really a matter for conjecture," he said.

There's a major problem with the requirement to re-plant the forest

Boyle noted that forestry plantings are at a record low, despite its potential to take 3mt out of the 20mt of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted by Irish agriculture every year.

"I think there's a major problem with the requirement to re-plant the forest once it's felled," he said. "Personally I think it puts off farmers."

Dublin2Mayo tractor run hopes to raise much-needed funds for charity
Building on the success of last year, the Dublin2Mayo charity tractor run returns this Easter weekend.

The Dublin2Mayo Charity Tractor Run is back, this time bigger and better.

The run will begin at Dublin Port on Good Friday and travel to Longford before finishing in Kilkelly, Co Mayo, on Easter Saturday evening.

Organiser Tom Lavelle told the Irish Farmers Journal more about the event.

“A few of us got together last year and decided to try and raise some money for families we know who have less fortunate children," he said.

Phenomenal

"At the beginning we just wanted to raise a few grand, but the response we got was phenomenal.”

With 20 tractors starting off last year in Dublin, a further 70 tractors rowed in along the route, raising a whopping €96,000.

“We also raffled off a vintage Massy Ferguson, which gathered a lot of support. The two charities we raised money for last year were Crumlin Hospital and the Special Care Unit in Castlebar.”

Build on success

This year, Lavelle and the organising committee are keen to grow the event and build on last year’s numbers.

“This time we are making a weekend out of it. The tractor run will be finishing in Kilkelly, kick-starting a weekend of festivities.

"We have a great line-up of performers such as Richie Remo, the Kilkennys and Robert Mizzell. We will be raffling off a Massey Ferguson 135 on the night also.”

All proceeds raised go towards the Special Care Baby Units in Castlebar and in Mullingar and also to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.

Lavelle paid special tribute to all contributors, organisers and to sponsors Communicare Healthcare and Grassmen.

Interested?

To get involved in the tractor run or enter the draw for the Massey Ferguson 135, contact Tom Lavelle on 087-426 7070.

For more information, visit the Dublin2Mayo Facebook page.

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Hogan receives French Commander of the Order of Agricultural Merit
There are just 400 people alive today who have received this historic French award for services to agriculture.

Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan was awarded the Commander of the Order of Agricultural Merit at a ceremony in Paris on Friday night.

It is an order of merit bestowed by the French Republic for outstanding contributions to agriculture and was created in 1883.

The commander is the highest possible rank of the order and there are just 400 recipients of the rank alive today.

The second rank is officer and the third rank is knight. These awards are limited annually to 60 commanders, 600 officers and 2,400 knights.

Rural way of life

“Family farms and the rural way of life hold a special place in the heart of the French people, and I view it as my mission and my duty to support this treasured way of life, today and in the future,” Phil Hogan said, accepting the title.

“When minister of agriculture Jules Méline established this order in 1883, he argued that in the field of agriculture 'labour was intensive and never-ending, devotion was commonplace but the rewards were rare'."

The Irish Farmers Journal understands that the last Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Ciolos was awarded knight of the Order of Agricultural Merit.

Reward our farmers

“My deeply held belief is that we must continue to reward our farmers for the incalculable contribution they make to the well-being of our people, the well-being of our rural areas and the well-being of our precious climate and environment,” Hogan said.

“Today, though, I am honoured beyond words, I want to express my profound gratitude to you.

"I will continue to be a champion of French farmers and French agricultural products wherever I go.”

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