IT seems to be now only a matter of ‘where and when’ as regards a major farmer protest over the falling price of beef at the Irish meat plants – this week the factories pressed ahead with more cuts despite a series of meetings across the country last week seeking to stabilise the market prices..
Galway IFA Chairman, Michael Flynn, said that the meat plants seemed ‘hell bent’ on running the Irish beef industry into the ground with the latest series of cuts following what he described as a shocking year in Irish farming.
“This price cut agenda is being driven purely by greed and short term gain. The factories just cannot see beyond their noses – as long as they can increase profits from one week onto the next, they don’t give one jot about the future of the Irish cattle producers,” said Michael Flynn.
He said that he envisaged major protest moves over the coming weeks by farmers who had once more ‘just taken enough’ at the hands of the factories at a time when beef prices in the UK were at an all-time high.
IFA Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said that the beef factories have cut cattle prices by 35c to 50c/kg across the different categories or €130 (steers), €150 (heifers) and €145 (cows) since early/mid-June.
“Price cuts of this magnitude are inflicting severe financial and income damage on livestock farmers and acutely eroding confidence across the livestock sector,” said Henry Burns.
He said that since early June cattle supplies had remained tight with the weekly kill in the 26,000 to 28,000 range. Major factory price cuts at these levels pointed to a real lack of price competition, leaving farmers very sceptical of the industry’s Food Industry 2020 plans to grow output towards 40,000 head per week.
“This points to a real need for more competition and more live exports. The latest price cuts have seriously damaged confidence in the beef sector and particularly the suckler cow herd. Recent ICBF data shows a 29% increase in beef cows leaving the herd and a 7.4% drop in calvings this spring,” said Henry Burns.
A further 5c per kg. was ‘shaved off’ the price of steers this week by the factories bringing them back to the €4.10/€4.15c per kg. price range.
There have also been suggestions this week that the protests over the beef price cuts could be taken to the doors of major fast food outlets such as Burger King and McDonalds, who strongly promote the image of locally sourced product.
“The factory price cuts combined with other factors have also impacted negatively on store and weanling prices. Mart data shows male store cattle are back €60 to €100 per head on last year. Heifer store prices are back €75 to €100. Weanling bulls are back €70 to €110 and heifers are back 30/50c/kg lw or €100 to €125 per head. Beef price cuts and store and weanling price falls of these levels will impact very negatively across the incomes of all livestock farmers this year,” said Henry Burns.
Following one of the most difficult winter and spring periods on record with a severe fodder crisis Henry Burns said farmers encountered major cost increases and are left with large bills to pay. “It is critical livestock farmers have a period of strong stable and profitable cattle prices to overcome these challenges and recover.”
Farmers losing out on beef grading machines
Beef farmers could be losing up to €168 per head due to the lack of accuracy on mechanical beef grading machines in meat plants across the country.
That’s according to local Deputy Denis Naughten, on foot of figures he obtained on the accuracy of these beef grading machines.
The figures show that Department inspectors have found machines to be out by a factor of at least 10% on 119 occasions over the last 18 months
Deputy Naughten pointed out that the legal tolerance limit set for beef grading machines currently in use in meat plants is a mere 60% accuracy.
Even though the Department inspectors found them to be out by at least 10% on 119 occasions, on only eight occasions was mechanical grading suspended because the machines had to be getting the grades wrong on four out of every ten cattle.
“The mechanical grading machines in use in beef plants across the country today were first trialled and tested 20 years ago by Teagasc,” said the Roscommon/Galway TD.
“At that time google was just invented and people needed an encyclopaedia if we wanted to look something up.
“Technology has changed a lot in 20 years and we now need new hi-tech beef grading machines and new modern rules to operate them so they can accurately reflect the actual grade of the animal. These new rules then need to be properly enforced by Departmental officials to ensure that farmers will not be exploited,” he added.
See full story in this week’s Farming Tribune. The Connacht Tribune is on sale now, or you can get our digital edition here.
Farmers urged to take part in Brexit seminar
GALWAY farmers and IFA members have been asked to consider attending next Monday’s special seminar on the Brexit issue to be held in Goffs, Kill, Co. Kildare.
A number of high profile speakers will address the seminar including EU Agricultural Commissioner, Phil Hogan; the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed; IFA President Joe Healy as well as senior representatives from the Irish meat industry.
The conference – that runs from 9am to 4pm – is open to all IFA members, although booking is essential in order for the organisers to ‘get a handle’ on the numbers attending. An attendance of about 600 farmers is expected.
Galway-Mayo IFA Regional Officer, Roy O’Brien, told the Farming Tribune that Brexit was the single biggest issue facing the agricultural industry in Ireland over the coming months and years.
“We are looking at a UK market which takes a large percentage of our agricultural produce – what we desperately need is for this market outlet to stay open to us without any tariffs being imposed.
“Ireland does have a special relationship with the UK but we really need to press this issue home with our own political representatives, the EU and Britain as well.
“We’ve all seen over recent months the impact that currency fluctuations alone can have on markets, so the last thing we need is any form of tariff being applied to our exports to Britain,” said Roy O’Brien.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Celebrating half a century of co-operative spirit
The 50th anniversary of a game-changing moment for the dairy industry in the county – which saw the development of co-operative milk processing facilities in Kilconnell – was marked with a gathering of founding members and others associated with the plant and the former Midwest Farmers Co-op last week.
Held in Kilconnell Hall, Friday night’s event was one of deep nostalgia as the establishment of the plant in Kilconnell was recalled but also one with a strong sense of positivity for the future as the plant’s as one of Ireland’s finest was equally celebrated.
The journey commenced over 50 years ago with the decision to develop a central creamery in Kilconnell and three separating stations in Athenry, Athlone and Clonberne, which were to be operated by Kilinaleck Co-op.
The Co Cavan co-op had won the tender to develop the facilities but such was the transformative effect it would have on dairying in East Galway that supply would quickly outgrow the Cavan co-op’s capacity and lead ultimately to the establishment of Midwest Farmers Co-op.
According to Brendan Lynskey, a retired dairy farmer synonymous with Kilconnell and Midwest Farmers Co-Op, the existence of a state-of-the-art facility today at the East Galway plant is testament to the foresight and hard work 50 years ago and more of those involved in the then fledgling dairying community.
“As one farmer put it to me all those years ago, not long after the co-op was up and running, we would never be short of a pound after this. It was a different time. A big dairy herd back then was 30 cows and some people were happy to milk five or six cows and leave the can out on the side of the road for collection.
“The start at Kilconnell was a great time and I worked there for a number of years. There was an awful lot of farmer involvement to get that up and running and the key moment probably was a meeting in Athenry at which it was decided that Kilconell would be the central location and that we would have three separation stations.
“The projected cost of the creamery at the time was €120,000 for Kilconnell and €60,000 to install the additional equipment. That might not do much today but it was an awful lot of money back then and we were up and running in ’66. The building of it was mostly manual work. I don’t think there was any ready-mix at the time, it was all done manually. There was very heavy concrete work because there was an old time churn with a big base so it needed a lot of concrete,” he recalled.
But it wasn’t long, he continued, before Kilinaleck Co-op would no longer have the capacity to handle growth at Kilconnell.
For more of the history and background of the co-op see this week’s Tribune here