A five-point plan to protect the income of cattle and sheep farmers has been put forward by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA), with the proposals suggesting means of improving farm cash-flow and reducing the impact of rising feed costs.

The announcement of the proposals comes as the INHFA vice president Micheal McDonnell indicated a “real concern” for the beef and sheep sectors, stating that farmer price pressures are already becoming apparent in the recent light store cattle trade.

“While some of these farmers may carry their younger stock into and through the winter, there are many more that depend on a strong trade every autumn - a trade that could be undermined by the lack of fodder and meal” said McDonnell.

“For this reason, it is vital that measures are taken now to ensure sufficient animal feed to support all sectors this autumn and winter,” the vice present commented.

Five measures

The first measure proposed by the INHFA was the introduction of a “substantial” budget to finance a support package for farmers making silage or hay this year, to ease the burden of input cost increases for beef and sheep farmers.

The farmer organisation called on Minister McConalogue to seek permission from the European Commission on allowing an August advance payout of scheme monies.

Flexibility to allow ewe lambs to make up ewe numbers under the Sheep Welfare Scheme was also sought. The hill group says this would allow older ewes to be culled without impacting farmers’ payments.

The INHFA called for consideration to be given to flexibility on the meal feeding option of the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme Sucklers (BEEP-S), should meal supplies tighten or concentrate prices increase when suckler herds are weaning.

Finally, the group insisted on “urgent action” being taken on the wool feasibility study, stating that viable options for the sale of wool would improve the price received by farmers for the product.