Connaughton calls for action on alarming drop in suckler herd

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Deputy Paul Connaughton has called on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney T.D. to take very seriously the alarming drop in the suckler cow herd and to target financial help to this vital sector in the upcoming distribution of the new CAP funds.

Deputy Connaughton said the dramatic drop in the suckler cow numbers spelled sheer disaster for farmers, meat factory processing jobs and exports but worst of all, would derail the targets set in the Food Harvest 2020 programme for the expansion of the suckler cow herd.  ‘We are now experiencing the sharpest fall in suckler cow numbers in 20 years,’ said Deputy Connaughton.

‘Suckler cow numbers have dropped off dramatically this year and are expected to fall by up to 120,000 in 2013, which could have serious repercussions for the national herd in years to come.

‘There is one overriding reason for this, farmers just cannot absorb the cost of feeding the suckler cow over the winter period and the winter just past accelerated what was slowly but surely happening for a few years before that.  A regular feature of what is happening at the marts now is that after the weanling is sold, its mother is offered for sale a few months later as a stripper cow.

‘This will eventually tear the heart out of the beef industry and the meat factories would do well to consider their recent outrageous actions in reducing prices when international factors suggest that such price reductions are unwarranted.  It is the never-ending story of the meat factories killing the goose that laid the golden egg.’

Deputy Connaughton said it was his view that the suckler herd needed to be placed on a sound foundation and the only way farmers would respond was if and when keeping suckler cows proved a profitable enterprise.  ‘This is not now the case.  Most suckler farmers now find that keeping their suckler cows is losing them money and they can only stay afloat by dipping into their single farm payment.’

Deputy Connaughton said it is now generally accepted that it costs €700 on average to maintain the suckler cow over the year and if weanlings are sold for this figure, no money whatsoever is made and a great deal of time, energy and risk is gone down the drain.

‘I believe there is now a strong case to provide some type of worthwhile coupled payment under the new EU CAP arrangements targeted at the production of good quality suckler cows whose progeny will be either exported live as weanlings to anywhere in the world or be processed in our meat factories for export to the financially rewarding supermarket shelves of Europe.  I have discussed this matter with Minister Coveney on several occasions already but it will soon be decision time and I call on him in the public interest to stand behind the suckler cow farmers of Ireland,’ concluded Deputy Connaughton.