DEAR SIR: I refer to the report in last week’s Irish Farmers Journal in relation to comments made by Prof Gerry Boyle at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture.
I think it is incredible that the director of Teagasc would suggest suckler farmers should just give up and go rear dairy calves.
After the millions of euro that his organisation was given for beef research, his final advice is to just quit!
The very people tasked with improving our profitability now want to use our lack of profitability as a reason to get rid of us.
This is another example of the narrative that the west of Ireland should be planted or rear dairy calves, in an effort to create a ‘bainne’ republic that would be bankrupt if there was a negative run in the GDT.
I wasn’t surprised by his view, given that he sits on the Climate Change Advisory Council that previously suggested that half the suckler herd should go, based on income instead of emissions.
Environmental decisions must be taken on environmental grounds and suckler beef is environmentally sustainable.
In 2011, with one million suckler births, Ireland’s agricultural emissions achieved its 2030 target; the transition away from suckler farming has greatly increased our emissions.
Contrary to what was presented to the Oireachtas, the suckler herd was stable at over one million births from 2004 to 2012 and over that time, our agricultural emissions decreased by 10%.
Prof Boyle’s view is to go back to the 1970s and 1980s where there was more integration between the two sectors, but the high-EBI dairy cows of today are far removed from the dairy cows of the past.
Terminal traits are some of the most influenced by genetics and with less than 7% of the EBI being relevant to beef finishing, it has been steadily breeding these traits out of the dairy herd.
His argument that dairy beef is more sustainable due to the cow not being included in the calculation does not stack up when you look at feed efficiency and carcase weight for age that can be achieved by the suckler herd.
Beef farmers have nothing to fear from scrutiny of our environmental performance provided it is based on actual science.
The nature of biogenic methane must be recognised in the calculations – it is a recycled greenhouse gas and as such is not driving global warming like CO2.
As a sector, agriculture cannot be expected to offset emissions from other sectors not reaching their targets; but also the suckler sector cannot be expected to offset the dairy emissions either.