A smaller group of farmers than usual attended this year’s annual Teagasc beef conference in Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

While 2023 is expected to be a positive year for beef price, the underlying concern is high input prices and the low level of profitability in the sector.

A large focus of the evening’s proceedings was on the environment and how the Irish beef sector can meet its emissions targets by 2030.

Two-year-old calving, red clover and earlier slaughter age were all discussed in detail as to how they can be applied on farm and what effect they will have on both profitability and reducing emissions from the sector.

Supporting farmers

Commenting on the Teagasc response to the emissions targets, director of Teagasc Professor Frank O’Mara said: “Teagasc is supporting farmers to play their part in reducing emissions and increasing carbon sequestration.

“We have launched a number of important new initiatives, as part of the Teagasc climate action strategy.

“We will be providing farmers with a new Signpost Advisory Programme to help them to navigate the pathway for their farm towards improved sustainability.

“We will also be advancing, in partnership with ICBF and Bord Bia, the development of our new unique Sustainability Digital Platform that will aid farmers in getting a better understanding of the sources of emissions, and how through the implementation of proven technologies they can reduce emissions.”

Not enough progress

Pearse Kelly, head of the drystock department in Teagasc, admitted that not enough progress is being made on two-year-old calving on suckler farms.

The average age that heifers calve on suckler farmers currently stands at 31.3 months.

This has reduced by 10 days in the last 10 years but is nowhere near where it needs to be to hit emissions targets.

Kelly pointed to an incentive payment for calving heifers at 24 months as part of any suckler programme as being a positive and said it would make Teagasc’s job a lot easier in making progress on farms.