Targeted support needed for suckler cows

Tuesday, 15 May, 2018

The Ulster Farmers’ Union beef and lamb chairman, Sam Chesney says the market is still some way off providing a sustainable living for suckler cow producers. He says the latest figures from DAERA for the 2016/17 financial year show that the average cost of production has been estimated at £3.97/kg, without any costs included for labour or opportunity costs associated with land and working capital. 

The data, published by the Livestock & Meat Commission (LMC), clearly demonstrates how vulnerable the suckler cow is in Northern Ireland and the importance of introducing targeted support in any post Brexit agriculture policy.

Mr Chesney says, “The latest cost of production data for suckler cows during the 2016/17 financial year does not make for attractive reading. With the average price paid during this period for suckler beef coming in around £3.36/kg, this demonstrates how vulnerable the sector is. Given the strategic importance of beef production within the wider agri-food industry, we are calling on DAERA to ensure that provisions are introduced in a post Brexit agriculture policy which acknowledges the wider economic, environmental and social importance of the suckler cow.”

The UFU Beef and Lamb policy chair continues, “We all want to see a more profitable suckler beef sector, but the reality is that the market is some way off providing farmers with the returns they need to sustain a viable income before subsidies are taken into account. Despite stable prices over the last 12 months, they are not sufficient to secure an income from suckler production and this is demonstrated by the growing number of suckler producers who are switching to dairy.”

Mr Chesney adds, “We want to see a strong and vibrant suckler cow sector that remains the backbone of the beef industry in Northern Ireland. However, the sector will need assistance and this is why we are calling for a suckler cow scheme which can support efficient, grass based production post Brexit. Northern Ireland has always marketed its beef off the back of suckler cows grazing our beautiful countryside and this is something we must seek to protect as the UK moves into the global market.”