Suckler sector vital to economic wellbeing of rural Ireland says INHFA

The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have welcomed comments made by Minister McConalogue in support of our suckler sector.

Speaking on this INHFA Vice President Micheal McDonnell stressed the need to protect this sector adding that “any further decline in the sector won’t just impact on the farmers but risks undermining the economic wellbeing of many rural communities.”

Our suckler sector is, he stated “under serious threat due to ongoing demands to reduce cow numbers in order to deliver on the climate change targets.” This need is, he maintained “taking precedence over everything else including reasoned discussion on the benefits of suckler farming from a socio-economic and environmental perspective.”

In assessing our farming systems and specifically the suckler sector it is stressed McDonnell vital that we consider the following

• “With suckler farming dominant in many parts of the country where other farming options are not realistic due to constraints such as soil type, terrain and fragmented holdings. Then what impact assessment (both social and economic) has been conducted on any further reduction in suckler numbers across these communities. Will there be a future for our Marts in those areas?

• As suckler farming is predominantly extensive in nature, why has there been a reluctance to take on board the EU Commission Report titled ‘Grazing for Carbon’ This report has clearly identified the merits of extensive farming systems in relation to sequestering carbon and could provide a vital marketing opportunity for suckler beef.

• Currently Bord Bia have a marketing budget of €2m/year for the promotion of naturally reared suckler beef. If we continue to label suckler cows as an issue in relation to climate change and force or encourage a reduction, then this will clearly undermine the promotion of suckler beef.

• There is, we believe, a massive opportunity to market naturally reared suckler beef, both from an environmentally sustainable and animal husbandry perspective. To do this we will need to differentiate it from other beef options, but we are concerned there isn’t an appetite with Bord Bia or our Meat Processors to do this. However, it is important that they clarify this.

• Finally, in relation to climate change, it is vital that we act on the evidence and address these issues in the areas where the EPA tells us the problems are. This is not in the areas where suckler farming dominates.”

Concluding, the INHFA Vice President stressed the need to protect our suckler sector and stated that “the INHFA will not support any cull of our suckler cows.”