Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has shelved plans for suckler cull schemes, saying they are now “off the table”.

“Both the farm organisations and the processors are in agreement that they do not want a beef reduction scheme, so that is something that is off the table,” he told over 350 farmers at the IFA’s climate summit in Limerick on Tuesday.

However, the minister said he would be looking at a dairy exit scheme and would “engage further” with the Food Vision dairy group.

“The consensus of the Food Vision dairy group was that a cow reduction scheme should be examined further. Along with my officials, I am examining this proposal in further depth,” he told the Irish Farmers Journal when asked about a potential timeline for a dairy exit package.

The surprise scrapping of the suckler cull schemes comes as an Irish Farmers Journal survey of 800 suckler farmers found that half of them would consider cutting back or getting out of sucklers, depending on the financial incentive offered.

It also found that 94% of suckler farmers were waiting to see the financial detail of a proposed exit package to make herd management decisions this year.

Prof Thia Hennessy, chair of the Food Vision beef and sheep group, said that without the suckler reduction schemes, the Food Vision recommended actions would fall 1.25Mt CO2 eq short of the 5.7Mt target for emissions reduction and meeting the legally binding limit now would be “an enormous challenge”.

She added that there had been “some limited support” among the Food Vision stakeholders for the suckler extensification scheme to allow farmers to remove some less productive cows, get paid and reinvest that money in their farm.

IFA president Tim Cullinan welcomed the minister’s announcement as a positive move, saying: “We’re not in favour of reduction schemes.

“I think it’s very important that there wasn’t a rash decision made to start reducing numbers but obviously, as we all know, suckling is a low-income business and we need proper funding around that now.

“There are [climate mitigation] changes happening now and the piece the minister didn’t say today was how much funding he’ll put in place and that’s critically important.”

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