ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has said that the pilot initiative by the Department for the rearing of dairy calves must give the full unvarnished truth on the economics of this enterprise.
‘It is a worthwhile initiative to see what are the real economic consequences on the beef sector posed by the dairy expansion model. However, we need full accounting of the farmer’s own labour costs from beginning to end and a proper costing for their own land.
‘ICSA believes that the real breakeven purchase price of a dairy bull calf should be about minus-€165. This is a feedlots’ estimate for the animals that have Jersey or part Jersey genetics. ICSA believes that farmers are wasting their time trying to make any profit out of these calves,’ he stated.
‘However, at present, some farmers are trying it and all they are doing is adding to the glut of beef. Perhaps this trial can finally put real figures on the enterprise.’
Mr Graham warned: ‘We also have to get real and stop pretending that we can fix the problems of bad Jersey genetics by crossing back with beef breeds and using sexed semen. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
‘Farmers need to understand that, in 2017, almost 80% of cull cows from the dairy herd graded P. You cannot use this as a base for profitable beef production. Even where beef sires are used on dairy cows, almost 80% of the steers arising from this cross graded O or worse.
‘The problem is that, while the New Zealand dairying model may work in terms of dairy farm expansion, nobody has paused to analyse the damaging impact on the Irish beef sector which is so important to our economy,’ he explained.
‘New Zealand is not a major beef exporting country and it is highly questionable whether we should try to adopt their systems in their entirety while still wanting to continue as a beef exporting nation.
‘There has been too much focus on dairy expansion and too little consideration of the impact on our suckler and beef finishing sectors,’ concluded Mr Graham.