John Heney: Why I think it’s time to ditch the Continentals
Now that the severe pre-Christmas weather is behind us, preparations for the coming year must be made.
s on every journey it is important to know where you start. Unfortunately, this is not possible as all we hear from government buildings is pious platitudes and a constant stream of conflicting non-statements.
With all this uncertainty hanging over us, farm incomes are the real elephant in the room.
Kevin Hanrahan, Director of Rural Economy and Development Program at Teagasc, in a recent interview about nationwide highlighted the huge income disparities between agricultural sectors and debunked the fallacy of using the annual “average agricultural income” as a benchmark.
But perhaps there is also a glimmer of hope for us in the cattle industry.
I recently attended a Dairy Calf to Beef conference organized by one of our major processing groups.
This well attended meeting covered a wide range of topics from good husbandry to new developments in animal genetics with the increased use of sires from traditional beef breeds which will lead to much needed improvements in the quality of dairy beef.
I found it very interesting what one of the speakers had to say about reducing the age for slaughter. He emphasized that good communication between beef farmers and their dairy calf suppliers is essential if a larger number of early-finishing beef/dairy crossbreeds is to be produced.
He also explained that since processors need to supply cattle year-round, there is still a need for grass-ready dairy cattle.
Could this mindset help our ailing infant sector?
A critical issue faced by many suckler cow farmers is the tremendous cost involved in keeping a herd of large continental suckler cows year-round, not to mention the thorny issue of methane emissions.
The added expense of fattening her excellent but slow-growing offspring has also become a major stumbling block.
If, like their neighbors in the dairy sector, they relied on the traditional beef breeds, the cost of keeping cows would drop drastically and their much quicker ending offspring would have to be fed less expensively compared to their exotic continental relatives.
I recently took a look back at economist Jim Power’s Independent assessment of the Irish beef industrypublished in March 2020. This report exposed a number of meat industry myths.
When interviewing stakeholders, Mr Power found that one retailer did not want to buy beef from cattle with “a massive rump” because the quality consistency is not as strong in such animals.
Another retailer did not differentiate between dairy and mother beef as long as the product met specifications, adding that the animal’s weight was also a big issue.
The crux of the report for me was Teagasc’s quote that “current beef prices are causing all suction systems to lose”. And developments in 2022 have made this situation even worse
It has been almost 60 years since continental breeds were first imported into Ireland and many farmers are still drawn to the ‘quality’ of these animals. Many wealthy businessmen who own “a bit of land” and landowners with independent means also prefer them because of their attractive looks.
Unfortunately, after all these years, income research shows that these breeds have failed to lift maternal milk production from its position as Ireland’s lowest paid farming enterprise.
Perhaps the angry noises from a number of independent rural politicians and some smaller farming groups should be better aimed at encouraging people to cut their costs to give them a chance at profit.
Nobody cares what kind of inventory we carry anymore.
John Heney farms in Kilfeackle, Co. Tipperary
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/beef/john-heney-why-i-believe-its-time-to-ditch-the-continentals-42261315.html John Heney: Why I think it’s time to ditch the Continentals