Professor Gerry Boyle has apologised unreservedly for offence caused by remarks he made about dairy-beef production at a recent Dublin Economics Workshop.

The outgoing director of Teagasc said he profoundly regrets that his unscripted response to a question at the workshop has caused such considerable annoyance and offence to so many beef producers and advisory colleagues within Teagasc.

Prof Boyle said causing offence was never his intention and, while he said his remarks were taken out of context, their effect was nevertheless to deeply offend so many people that he had worked with over the years.

The director said his remarks were taken to imply that Teagasc had adopted a policy position in favour of dairy beef over sucklers.

In a statement issued on Friday, he said this was most unfortunate for two reasons.

First, he stated that Teagasc’s role was not to promote any particular enterprise.

Secondly, the impression created by his remarks was completely contrary to the substantial investment that Teagasc had made in its beef programme during his period as director.

Teagasc role

Teagasc, the Professor said in his statement, had “no business being involved in policy advocacy”.

Its role is to undertake quality research and advisory work on all feasible farming enterprises and to lay out the facts concerning margins and sustainability before farmers.

“Farmers then assess this information in consultation with their advisers and decide for themselves whether to adopt the given enterprise. Farmers, have to make the investments and take the risk,” the statement read.

“Teagasc ... had absolutely no role whatsoever in advocating any particular enterprise,” the statement continued.

Professor Boyle noted that he himself had developed this position over the years and that it was also endorsed by the Teagasc Authority on several occasions. He agreed that it was most unfortunate that his remarks would cause this position to be called into question.

He said Teagasc’s role was to improve the livelihoods of Irish farmers on a sustainable basis. Teagasc’s advisers and researchers work on a daily basis in pursuit of this objective and he hoped that his ill-considered remarks would not affect this great work.

Teagasc’s beef activities

In the lengthy statement issued on Friday, Teagasc’s activity in supporting Ireland’s beef farmers was documented at length, including:

  • 140 Teagasc advisers providing an “an outstanding service to beef farmers” throughout the country, compared to 89 advisers in dairy and 16 in tillage.
  • Over 2,000 students studying beef farming at Teagasc’s colleges, supported by 20 highly committed and qualified teachers. In total, almost 700 head of stock are employed throughout the beef teaching programme, occupying a total of about 330ha.
  • An extended research programme in beef including two research demonstration farms for suckler beef, the Derrypatrick Farm at Grange and the Newford Farm at Athenry, as well as the Maternal Breeding Herd at Grange.
  • Teagasc’s role in leading Meat Technology Ireland as it invests over €8m in the beef industry that will also deliver very real benefits to the sector.
  • Climate change

    The statement said that when asked about climate change, Professor Boyle said that the published targets presented major challenges to Ireland’s livestock sectors.

    Professor Boyle said “Teagasc’s position was that the implementation of its MACC measures could ensure a stable national herd”, the statement reads. It added that he “also reiterated that biogenic methane should have a separate target”.