The proposal to reduce the nutrient excretion rates of heifers while increasing the rates for male cattle as part of the interim review of the nitrates action programme, has been slammed by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association beef chair John Cleary.

The ICSA, he said, believes that these changes are fundamentally unfair and biased.

"It appears to us to be no more than a deliberate manoeuvre to skew nitrates data in favour of one sector at the expense of another,” he said.

Cleary added that the proposed increase in excretion rates for male cattle aged one to two years, effectively penalises farmers who rear these cattle.

“Increasing the excretion rates for males from their current value of 57kg N/year to 61kg N/year means a drystock farmer would have to reduce the number of males they keep by almost 7%. That is a big hit to stocking density on beef farms and, by extension, a big hit on their already low incomes. In our view, simultaneously reducing the excretion rate for heifers to 55kg N/year represents a calculated and underhanded attack on the drystock sector," he said.

The review will take place over the coming months, however, in the meantime farmers are being advised that certain adjustments, including the changes to the excretion rates, are intended to apply for 2024.

'No financial supports'

“This move is a real blow to suckler farmers and beef finishers alike. It also means that while on the one hand these farmers are being asked to take on dairy beef males, on the other hand they are being asked to keep less. It is worth noting too that there are no financial supports available for these farmers to take on dairy beef males and that these are also the farmers that have been hit the hardest with CAP payment cuts. Amending the nutrient excretion rates in this way will only serve to further undermine the future viability of these enterprises," he said.