The confusion and frustration among suckler farmers continues this week as farmers digest the impact of the recent changes to the replacement index star ratings on their own herds.

We’ve been inundated with queries and questions. A lot of the frustration from farmers relates to the involvement in the SCEP.

Sires used this spring have now dropped in star ratings, but the cows are now in calf. As many farmers have said; if the industry knew these changes were coming, why wait until now to tell farmers?

In fairness, ICBF’s Sean Coughlan recognises this, and you would expect the management and the board of ICBF to drive for some movement on the proportion of the herd in two and three years’ time that needs to be 4 and 5 star.

This week, Adam Woods digs deeper into what farmers in Carrick-on-Shannon were highlighting. Smaller and lighter breeds are scoring much better than continental breeds.

Milky cows

We have known and shown on Tullamore Farm for a long time that milky cows can drive weanling growth rates and performance. However, the extent of the shift in replacement index value for the extremely low carcase breeds seems way out of kilter relative to the vast majority of suckler cows.

Elsewhere. Teagasc highlights a Signpost suckler farmer in Waterford that has made significant strides in breeding much heavier cattle (bulls slaughtered at 417kg carcase at 15 months of age) from suckler cows good on milk but also good on carcase traits. Previously this farm had cows good on milk but low on carcase weight.

This farm is highlighted as the future of environmental and economic sustainability, but it seems at odds with the new replacement index top sires.

CAP peatland moves

As science tries to catch up with policy, it is positive to see Minister McConalogue and his Department officials push back on the start date of CAP rules for those farmers with peatlands. It’s only three months ago that Teagasc revealed that the assumed 355,000 hectares considered drained peatlands might actually be closer to 100,000 hectares.

The land use sector in Ireland is estimated in the national greenhouse gas inventory to be a major source of emissions, but if critical assumptions are wrong then we need to know.

Critical research

The on-going research in the National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory and other research in the Teagasc Climate Centre to improve the emissions estimates and identify what farmers can do to reduce these emissions is critical.

Again, the transition in management needed for those with peatlands is critical to be communicated to farmers. We don’t need another nitrates situation where new rules, new maps, and new restrictions are just landed on farmers at the last minute.

Similarly, the current suckler row seems to have landed out of the sky on farmers with little advance communication or flagged changes. Farming and family life is stressful enough without significant policy and management changes happening at the flick of a switch.