ICOS represents over 130 co-operatives in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts
The organisation made the clalls yesterday and insist that the only officials who should be able to gain access to the AIM is Department of Agriculture officials.
This they say was the original intended purpose of the system, to be used to monitor the movements of livestock in the event of disease outbreaks.
This is what National Marts Executive of ICOS, Ray Doyle, told delegates at a Beef forum held in Dublin yesterday.
He continued by saying that the Government needs to address potential competition issues with meat processors controlling meat plants, offal rendering and now feedlots which also go against the green image that Ireland is trying to project abroad.
He said that other countries prohibit access to this information from third parties, and said we have a big problem on our hands with the AIM data being used in reverse.
He said factories and retailers are using the system to penalise farmers based on the number of movements of their livestock.
He said the system is facilitating a “serious contradiction in the market”, adding that “On the one hand, we’re promoting our Irish green image abroad which relies on pasture based production, and this advantage is underpinned by movements from farm to farm… On the other hand, while AIM is used by hundreds of agents and dealers to record these movements”.
This he says factories and retailers are using to pay lower prices.
Mr. Doyle added that this is a trade and not quality issue, and said “Either an animal is eligible for sale and slaughter or it’s not and that’s the only identifier that AIM should make known to third parties.”
He followed on by saying that the movement of cattle is a vital cog in maximising an animal’s potential when rearing for meat, especially for predominantly grass-fed animals.
He added that factories are trying to change this movement from pasture to pasture, to moving animals from farms straight to feedlots.
He continued by informing the delegates that, “the Irish factory ‘bonus system’ penalises more than 4 movements of livestock between farms prior to slaughter, ostensibly for quality and animal welfare reasons. Cattle that have moved farms in the last 70 days before slaughter are also penalised and don’t qualify for the QPS bonus, even if all farms are quality assured.”
He then said these factories and retailers are using the AIM system as “a market control measure., before adding that “Movement has always been a part of Irish cattle rearing where western suckler calves and southern dairy and beef calves are moved for finishing in the midlands and the east.”
He also informed the group that the number of movements pre-slaughter has no bearing on meat quality and, in fact it enhances the beneficial content of meat through the maximum exposure to a pasture fed diet.
He concluded by calling for a clamp down on these activities and called for access to be closed off from all third party users.