Meaningful scheme needed to stop decline in suckler herd

The attendance of over400 farmers at the IFA Western Region meeting on current farming issues in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris. Picture: Frank Dolan.
The attendance of over400 farmers at the IFA Western Region meeting on current farming issues in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris. Picture: Frank Dolan.

THE re-introduction of a suckler cow welfare scheme – with a meaningful payment in the region of €200 per cow in return for animal health/care improvements – was the main call from an IFA Regional Meeting held in Claremorris last Friday night.

A crowd of about 400 farmers who turned out at the McWilliam Park Hotel heard that there was a growing trend among the smaller suckler farmers to ‘get out’, something that would have major consequences for farming in the West of Ireland.

Connacht IFA Chairman, Padraic Joyce, said that a cornerstone of the suckler enterprise in the West was the smaller farmer who produced top quality continental weanlings both for the home market and for export.

He said that the supply of such quality weanlings could not be met from dairy herds with strong Holstein lines in them not conducive to the supply of quality calves to the market.

“The Beef Genomics Scheme has been dogged by bureaucracy and paperwork and doesn’t really offer a tangible financial incentive for farmers.

“What we need is a new version of the old Suckler Welfare Scheme which was a huge success with farmers committed to a number of animal welfare tasks in return for a payment per cow that made a difference to them.

“The way things stand at present, the suckler financial figures just don’t add up for a lot of farmers. Given the Teagasc annual cost figure of keeping a cow at €700, the sale of a weanling from these animals, barely covers the maintenance costs of the cow,” said Padraic Joyce.

He said that a top-level IFA delegation meeting with Minister Michael Creed this week, would be making the strong case for the re-introduction of such a scheme, front-loaded for the first 15 to 20 cows, to ensure that the smaller producer was looked after.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.