Good Herdsmen, Ireland’s largest organic beef and lamb processor, has already earmarked markets for extra organic produce that is set to come on stream in the next Organic Farming Scheme, John Purcell, managing director of Good Herdsmen, has said.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal in Nuremberg last week at Biofach – the world’s leading trade fair for organic food – he said he expects a big sign-up from farmers in October for the next scheme, which will run from 2023 to 2027.

“The good thing about the organic scheme is that it takes two years for the produce to hit the market.

“So we know and have predicted what beef they [farmers] will have and earmarked markets already,” he said.

As part of the scheme, farmers must undergo a two-year conversion period before achieving their full organic status.

This year, 380 new farmers signed up to the scheme and applications will open again in October this year.

Some 274 beef and sheep farmers applied for funding under the scheme this year, which will pay €300/ha to those undergoing conversion and €250/ha to those fully certified as organic in years three to five.

Processing capacity

“Processing capacity, or lack of, will not be an issue for Good Herdsmen,” sales manager Eamonn Dwyer said.

Currently the company processes in Cahir, Co Tipperary, Clones, Co Monaghan and Rathkeale, Co Limerick, with an overall average throughput of 170 cattle per week.

The average kill-out is 320kg carcase weight and a fat score of three is optimum, according to Purcell.

Meanwhile, 30% of the kill is Angus, 25% is Limousin, 10%-15% is Charolais, followed by a mixture of other breeds which make up the final 30-35%.

“The majority of our farmers do try to finish their cattle off grass in the back end of the year from autumn to November. There does tend to be a bit of a backlog then, but there’s never anymore than three or four weeks of a wait,” Purcell added.