Direct financial supports will be required from Government for cattle-rearing and finishing farms if they are to adapt to finishing cattle at younger ages, according to the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA).
IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said such changes to beef production systems and management practices do not come without additional costs and noted that there will be a need for time to implement them at farm level.
Golden was responding to the Advantage Beef Programme launched by ABP last month.
The programme will provide a 20c/kg bonus on cattle meeting the new ABP requirements involving slaughter at a younger age and the bonus will be on top of the in-spec quality assurance bonus.
Animals must be from a Bord Bia quality-assured herd and must have spent all of their life in a Bord Bia quality-assured herd.
Golden said the ABP scheme is an attempt to encourage a younger age of slaughter for cattle sourced from suckler and dairy herds while also promoting lower levels of antibiotic usage.
Both of these objectives are responding to societal demands on climate action and antibiotic use, which farmers are “acutely aware of”, he said.
The Mayo farmer said farmers have “openly stated we will play our part” to achieve these aims.
However, he warned that this change at farm level requires financial supports from Government, which he said the IFA “consistently called for” in the CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027.
The IFA rejected the idea that the average quoted price (AQP) scheme, where an average will be given which compares the seven ABP and Slaney plants for the week of slaughter, will provide a “guarantee of price” for beef farmers.
Golden said it’s extremely difficult to see how this provides the guarantee of price which the company claims.
The IFA livestock chair said security must be provided to beef finishers by all factories of longer-term price contracts or agreements that protect farmers from taking all of the financial risks in finishing cattle.
He also highlighted the need for stronger legislation to “provide full transparency for the value at each point in the supply chain” in the form of a food regulator.
The beef farmer said this has been committed to by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and warned that it must be put in place as a “matter of urgency”.
He said until farmers have this critical information, they will continue to be at the mercy of the factories and the prices they decide to quote on a weekly basis.