A “fire sale of dairy cull cows” is a distinct possibility if Ireland is forced into a “cliff-edge” cut to the nitrates derogation, the co-operative sector has warned.

The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) has called on the Government and European Commission to intervene immediately with a plan to prevent the forced offloading of dairy stock.

However, mart managers told the Irish Farmers Journal that the number of cows sold this autumn remained generally in line with previous years.

ICOS 'deeply concerned'

ICOS dairy committee chair Niall Matthews said he was deeply concerned at the lack of a coherent Government plan to deal with the consequences of a cut to the derogation, and called for an urgent meeting with Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.

ICOS dairy committee chair Niall Matthews.

“The Government and Commission need to intervene immediately with a plan to prevent a cliff-edge effect of a cut to the nitrates derogation,” Matthews said.

“Otherwise, we are facing into the possibility of a fire sale of dairy cull cows and other livestock in the autumn and spring of next year,” he insisted.


However, mart managers claimed there was no evidence, as of yet, that farmers were planning a major cull of cows. A marked increase in cull cow entries has not been a feature of the trade recently, according to Michael Lynch of Kilkenny Mart.

“It is hard to see what people will do, but we haven’t seen bigger numbers so far this autumn,” Lynch said.

Seán Dennehy of Bandon Mart maintained that dairy farmers have been culling pretty strongly since late last year.

“I’d say an awful lot of the culling is already done. We have seen pretty heavy cow numbers since last October,” Dennehy pointed out.

Meanwhile, Michael Harty of Central Auctions said numbers to-date this autumn were “no bigger than average”.

The factory cow kill to-date this year is running 3% back on last year.