DEAR SIR: Prof Gerry Boyle, in a parting address from Teagasc, claimed that there is no future in suckler farming.
He recommends that suckler farmers should instead rear animals for the dairy farmer or get involved in dairy-calf-to-beef.
He displays, in his advice, an apparent lack of understanding of the character of the Irish suckler farmer. He is a man who takes pride in his stock and his ambition is to breed and produce the best possible.
Firstly, he is not desirous of taking responsibility for another man’s stock; there is no satisfaction for him in rearing and being responsible for another’s stock.
If he was in a position or had the desire to milk cows, he would do so himself, but a large area of farmed land in the country is not suitable for dairying or the size of the holding or its fragmentation does not allow for such an enterprise.
In past years, there were a lot of smaller farms milking smaller herds of cows and making a comfortable living but over the years the rules and regulations imposed on the dairy man forced the smaller operations out of the business as the cost of improvements did not justify persisting with milk.
The number of dairy farms is a fraction of what they were many years ago and the size of the individual herds are much larger than they were because unless you have scale, you are not able to make a living at it.
The price paid for milk is similar to what it was back in the 1980s and some (sensible) people see this as a weakness as there is a limit to the scale of enterprise you can achieve and so unless the price paid is to increase, it will be similar to the suckler herds – no profit in the not too distant future.
Dairy-calf-to-beef is an oxymoron as the Teagasc advice to dairy farmers over the last number of years has guided them to breed animals that are completely devoid of any beefing abilities.
You just have to read the Irish Farmers Journal weekly to get an inside view of the profitability of the dairy beef.
Suckler farmers are looking at the dairy farmers and wondering if they are being led into a cul de sac.
The Irish Pedigree Breeders Council of Ireland is very disappointed in the stance taken by Teagasc and Prof Boyle in their degradation of the suckler herd and the advice given to dairy herds over the last number of years to use bulls, without any beefing qualities.
This means that there are a large number of calves coming out of the dairy herd that are not suitable for profitable feeding to beef.