The suggestion by Teagasc that there is no need for any significant amendment to the beef grid has been refuted by Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ISCA) beef chair Edmund Graham.
“[The] ICSA is convinced that the grid is not reflecting the extra added value of suckler-type, higher-grade animals because our trial of meat yield suggests a much higher return from R+ heifers compared to O= heifers,” he said.
“Accordingly, [the] ICSA will be insisting on a comprehensive field trial to determine what the extra added value of suckler beef is. The ICSA trial showed that the meat yield from an R+ heifer is of the order of 60% of the carcase weight compared to 52% from the dairy-type O grade heifer,” he said.
Graham outlined that this extra yield and the better composition, including more high-value cuts, suggests that the suckler-type heifer yields some €500 more retail value than the dairy-cross heifer.
“That’s a lot of added value, which is not reflected in grid pricing,” he said, adding that dairy expansion means there are a lot more cattle in the lower grades that are already heavily discounted on the grid, meaning that factories are saving a lot of money.
Factories are making a killing by not returning a fair share
“That simply wasn’t the case when the grid was introduced,” he said.
“This, combined with severe cuts on very heavy carcases, suggests that factories are making a killing by not returning a fair share of the added value on R+ and U grade cattle which meet other market requirements.”
The ICSA has called for support from other organisations to “ensure Teagasc do the necessary research in a manner which will reassure farmers".
He explained that if suckler cattle got even half of the extra value from higher meat yield, "it would be better than any subsidy and it would go a long way to saving suckler farming in Ireland.”
He promised dogged pursuit on the issue, until a fairer price is achieved.