DEAR SIR: Who could argue with Gerry Boyle of Teagasc when he says suckler cows’ “core profitability is very poor.”
It is also understandable when he states that it doesn’t make sense to limit the growth in the profitable dairy sector.
Prof Boyle further also said: “We are very strongly advocating, based on research, that we shift from beef-cow production to dairy-beef production.”
Now he has my attention.
I waited in vain for Prof Boyle to balance his comments by addressing the elephant in the room, ie the blasé approach many dairy farmers have to retaining a commercially viable beef gene when planning their breeding policy.
For me, and I believe for many others, not to have balanced his remarks by addressing this obvious problem suggests at least a lack of judgement or perhaps a lack of courage on his behalf.
In 2019, a team headed by Pearse Kelly, currently head of drystock with Teagasc, published a paper on dairy beef production.
Their findings indicated that an efficient drystock operator, with an aspiration to show a modest profit of €200/head after two years plus, would need to acquire the average Friesian bull calf together with a small cash incentive for his trouble. They also found that to take on a calf tainted by Kiwi influence, a very significant cash incentive would be required.
A major problem for drystock farmers considering dairy calf-to-beef production is identifying calves that have the genetic capacity to perform. ICBF has this information but is hindered in its freedom to share it with anyone except the original dairy herd owner.
The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that only 50% of dairy herds are in HerdPlus.
Prof Boyle has expressed surprise that the national suckler herd population has remained so resilient despite the financial challenges it has faced. I can help Gerry out a little here – it’s because drystock farmers do not wish to jump from the frying pan into the fire.
If the director needs further clarity on this, he could speak to the authors of the 2019 Teagasc report.