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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