Suckler sector must be protected in seeking to deliver on Climate Change targets – INHFA

The INHFA has expressed major misgivings on proposals outlined on the Food Vision Beef and sheep Group that they maintain will undermine our naturally reared suckler beef sector.

At a meeting of the Food Vision Beef and Sheep Group, the organisation have distanced themselves and withdrew from this process. This decision was reached following a lively meeting of the Organisations National council held on Wednesday evening where major misgivings were expressed regarding measures inside the report.

On withdrawing from the Beef and Sheep Food Vision Group the INHFA detailed a number of specific measures, in a statement their President delivered at this forum on 18-11-22. The measures that are of serious concern to the organisation are

• Measure 1 – Reducing slaughter age to 24 months;
• Measure 2 – Reducing the age of first calving to 24 months;
• Measure 8 – Farm diversification scheme;
• Measure 9 – Farm extensification scheme.

In relation to Measure 1 that is reducing the age of slaughter down to 24 months. This they maintain (even on a voluntary basis) will undermine suckler and extensive farming systems. There are, we believe “inherent risks associated with this measure that includes

• Beef price manipulation resulting from pressure on slaughtering. This pressure will be seen each spring as farmers (many of whom are calving down in Spring) will be selling stock into an oversupplied market.
• In setting a 24-month slaughter target there is a distinct possibility that this requirement could become mandatory in any future suckler support scheme.
• There is also a possibility that this could become a requirement for Board Bia certification.”

As regards measure 2 which proposes the reduction in the age of calving to 2yrs. On this the INHFA , stated “that this is not achievable in an extensive farming model (that includes organic). While this may be possible in intensive farming systems, whereby heifers are intensively fed through a meal feeding programme. For many suckler farmers often operating on fragmented holdings this option is not realistic and for many more they have no desire to pursue this option and see it as counter-productive in reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions.

On measures 8 and 9. The INHFA maintains that this is a cull of our suckler herd and cannot and should not proceed without a socio-economic assessment relating to the farming system and the wider rural economy that these farming systems support.

“Beyond this we also need to recognise the reputational damage from such a cull. How can we continue to promote naturally reared suckler beef in markets throughout Europe and beyond while promoting a cull in order to deliver on climate change targets. If we as an Organisation agree to this we are effectively saying that our suckler system is polluting” they concluded.