Suckler farmers have reacted angrily to a condition of the Department of Agriculture's proposed new suckler scheme in the next CAP.

Farmers who take part in the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme will not be allowed to increase their cow numbers.

We spoke to farmers around the country to get their reactions.

Fintan Young, Drumcar, Co Louth

What is the long game?

“This is yet another blow to this industry. Suckler cows are the backbone of the real beef industry across this country. We all cannot go into dairying, for obvious reasons.

"We all know that an efficiently run suckler unit is a hell of a lot less harmful on the environment and a lot more sustainable.

"It is less profitable, of course, and is in a lot of cases only supported by off-farm work. Before signing up to any scheme, you need to ask yourself who really is benefiting from this in the long-term?”

Conal Tiernan, Co Roscommon

Farmers need to stand together

“If the farm organisations don’t stand together to fight for the suckler farmers of Ireland on this, then every farmer should cancel their membership with them.

"They are sacrificing one of the biggest export industries in Ireland for a Government that will do anything to stay away from an election.”

Robert McGivern

Give quality beef a chance

“Dairy cows are now free from quotas. The supply and demand system seems to be working fairly well, so far.

"The suckler quota system is not necessary because people have always come and gone from the business.

"Better breeding is increasing the quality of our carcases and also the weight-to-age ratio, thereby leading to a younger slaughtered animal.

"The gap in the quality of dairy beef and suckler beef is ever widening, as dairy gets worse and suckler continues to improve.

"Suckler beef will still need to be the backbone of our beef industry; we cannot compete with the likes of South American beef unless we have superior quality and traceability.

"Our suckler schemes need to have an annual application. The flexibility of a year-by-year scheme will encourage new applicants who don’t want to tie themselves into a five-year scheme.”

Joe Malone

What about all the dairy farms?

“Why isn't Brussels doing anything to curb their expansion? The suckler farmer is an easy target, countrywide they only average about 20 cows.”

Cow numbers will be required to stay the same for the duration of the proposed scheme.

John McCarthy

They are going to ruin the country

“I think it’s a disgrace what they are proposing, they are going to ruin the country.

"How is a part-time farmer going to convince someone to take up part-time farming, if they are not allowed to expand like we all did when we were young?

"Dairy farmers can expand to whatever level they are able to afford.

"All that will be left in the countryside is landlord farms like you see in America. That is not what rural Ireland is about.”

Paul Slevin

'The farmers were sold out 30 years ago'

“I don’t think the ministers, Department of Agriculture or the Green Party really understand climate change.

"Revert back to March-May of 2020, why could so many countries in the world see the blue skies again?

"Wake up and smell the coffee – it’s industry, aeroplanes, vehicles and ships that is causing 90% of it.

"Farming equates [to a] very minimal amount; don’t let these [people] pull the wool over your eyes - the reality is they don’t want sucklers in this country.

"I think whoever thought of this scheme is clueless - it’s the same as GLAS. None of these policy makers see anything on the ground.

"I spend late nights up calving cows, some by caesarean section, and trying to keep sick calves alive to get them to weanling stage – all to get whatever [the factory] decides to pay.

"The farmers were sold out 30 years ago. Until we get fair play and get premium for our suckler beef, the game is over.”

Brian Smyth

Why limit the suckler lad?

“It’s ok for dairy lads to get as big as they want, but we have to remain or be punished!”

Kevin O’Donnell, Rathkeale, Co Limerick

It will always be sucklers

"I am a young part-time suckler farmer with an off-farm job, so making a profit from the cows is not our main concern.

"I can only imagine the stress on full-time suckler farmers trying to make a living, having to buy into schemes such as this even though you really would prefer not to.

"I feel the cap on suckler cows is very unequal. We all know that dairy farming is more intensive, thus reduces biodiversity and is more harmful for the environment.

"The vast majority of suckler farmers are older men in the west of Ireland on poorer ground. What will happen if they decide to shut up shop?

"In the long run, this constant negativity around suckler farmers will lead to this; a reduction in suckler cows while any dairy farmer can rent/buy as much land as they want (if they can get it because suckler farmers sure can’t) and start milking in the morning.

"They want suckler farmers to do contract rearing and dairy beef calves. For me, it will always be sucklers, even if we just have a few around the place.

"I would prefer to plant oak and ash on our fields and allow the few cows to graze within a woodland than do all the hard work for the dairy men who can send off the by-product of their industry with no consequences.

"I might sound bitter with my dairy bashing, but, honestly, I love all different types of farming.

It just seems unfair to me and any ambition I had to grow the business for the next generation.

"Beef farming in Ireland is environmentally friendly and can be improved on, the expansion of the dairy industry at its current rate definitely is not."