I attended a meeting in 2014 where, Tassos Haniotis, a director at the European Commission DG for Agriculture and Rural Development, said words to the effect that in future, European taxpayers will care about how Europe looks from the air, not food production.

I listened in disbelief and with a bit of anger. In the intervening seven years I’ve mellowed a bit and the Greek diplomat’s words are playing out in the current CAP proposals.

While you can’t predict the future you must make an attempt to gauge what direction things are going.

Young cows from Tommy Moyles's herd grazing the high ground at Ballinascarthy, Clonakilty, Co Cork.

Economic and social factors must be considered and where farming is concerned you have to try to understand where people are coming from and what motivates them. In doing so, it’s important not to let emotion become the chief influencer.

According to the ICBF statistics, cow numbers in Ireland grew by roughly 234,000 head between 2013 and 2020. Over this period, dairy cow numbers grew by 378,000 with the suckler population decreasing by about 144,000.

The suckler herd is contracting organically and that decrease will continue. Smaller families, better education opportunities and increased income expectation in parts of the country are all factors in its reduction and will remain so.

The news of capping the suckler herd is a major own goal

Surely when beef prices and beef farmers form is good there is an opportunity to put a long-term plan in place for the sector.

The news of capping the suckler herd is a major own goal. It’s an effort to get a handle on emissions we’re told. It might sound odd but this proposed scheme should act as a warning beacon to dairy farmers of what’s ahead, particularly in light of some of what is mentioned on the draft nitrates document.

The replacement heifers from Tommy Moyles's herd grazing at Ballinascarthy, Clonakilty, Co Cork.

I’ve mentioned it before but why not cap all cow numbers and that would in effect put a ceiling on emissions. Grasp the nettle and be done with it as something similar is inevitable.

If the proposed scheme is introduced, flexibility in the event of fertility issues will be required. If you were to implement best breeding practice for beef herds in non-EU countries, heifers and cows would be bred for just six weeks. Survival of the fittest.

Fertility and labour reduction are the profit drivers in unsubsidised cattle production. The results could see numbers float up or down in the region of 10 to 20% on any given year.

A quick word on the other topics in a week of ag policy overload. DNA tagging of all calves at birth should take precedence over the introduction of EID tags. Genotyping to identify sires has potential for more environmental efficiency gains if that’s what we’re looking for, especially with dairy beef predicted to increase.

All day Monday, I had ag policy conundrums going around in my head

However, if those who benefit from the introduction of EID tags are willing to chip in financially and the full cost isn’t thrown completely on the primary producer, I could live with it.

Regarding the nitrates, how will the proposed new rules fare when they have to be introduced because of haphazard adherence and enforcement of the old ones? All day Monday, I had ag policy conundrums going around in my head. A text from my cousin provided an unexpected diversion.

“Walrus below in Dunnycove, might be a good photo opportunity for you.”

A welcome distraction, the arctic giant was splayed out on a boat anchored in the bay on the eastern end of the headland the farm is located on. A walrus in a boat is better than an elephant in the room.