A time to save the sucklers!

Carrying the coffin for rural Ireland at the Beef Plan demonstration. Photo: Gerry Stronge.
Carrying the coffin for rural Ireland at the Beef Plan demonstration. Photo: Gerry Stronge.

GALWAY has the biggest suckler herd in the country – 97,000 – supporting 5,500 jobs and is worth in the region of €300 million to the county, the Beef Summit in Ballinasloe heard last Thursday night.

The Summit – organised by the Irish Farmers Journal – drew a ‘sell-out’ attendance of over 1,300 farmers from all over the country and was addressed by the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

According to Professor of Economics at UDC, Michael Wallace, the suckler herd nationally supports 52,000 full-time jobs across 14,000 suckler farms and is worth at least €2.9 billion to the Irish economy annually.

“The suckler herd is a critical part of the agricultural industry in Ireland but it’s suffering a silent decline.

“If any other industry faced the same rate of decline and the potential loss of jobs, particularly in disadvantaged areas, there would be people jumping up and down about it,” said Professor Wallace.

He also advised that there needed to be a cohesive strategy to chart the future of the suckler herd that involved multiple stakeholders.

Prof. Wallace said that the ‘three Ps’ of prices, productivity and payments should all be explored to prevent the loss of farms, jobs and money from rural areas.

Other areas that he said should be explored were the ‘premiumisation’ of suckler beef on the market; continued improvements in farm productivity such as grassland measurement and genetics; as well as direct payments.

“There is a case for stronger agri-environmental supports for extensively managed suckler beef herds while there’s also a case for targeted headage payments aimed at high-quality beef herds with threequarters beef genetics.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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