The ICSA is “convinced” that the grid is not reflecting the extra added value of suckler-type, higher grade animals, according to its beef chair, Edmund Graham.
The farm organisation holds this view because of a trial of meat yield, which suggests a “much higher return” from R+ heifers compared to O= heifers.”
Graham said he disagrees with the initial report from Teagasc which suggests there is no need for any significant amendment to the beef grid based on their “initial desktop analysis”.
“Accordingly, ICSA will be insisting on a comprehensive field trial to determine what the extra added value of suckler beef is.”
The ICSA trial showed that the meat yield from an R+ heifer is of the order of 60% of the carcass weight compared to 52% from the dairy-type O grade heifer.
“This extra yield and the better composition, including more high-value cuts, suggests that the suckler type heifer yields some €500 more retail value than the dairy-cross heifer.”
“That’s a lot of added-value which is not reflected in grid pricing. Moreover, dairy expansion means there are a lot more cattle in the lower grades – which are already heavily discounted on the grid - which means factories are saving a lot of money that simply wasn’t the case when the grid was introduced.”
This, Graham said, combined with severe cuts on very heavy carcasses, suggests that factories are “making a killing by not returning a fair share” of the added value on R+ and U grade cattle which meet other market requirements.
'Better than any possible subsidy'
ICSA said it wants to ensure that Teagasc do the necessary research in a manner which will reassure farmers.
“At present, most farmers see the grid as a one-way process to screw the farmer. The appalling thing is that if suckler cattle got even half the extra value from higher meat yield, it would be better than any possible subsidy and would go a long way to saving suckler farming in Ireland.”
“ICSA will be pursuing this issue doggedly until we can see a fair return for suckler beef.”
The farm group outlined that it is its policy that PGI status should be pursued specifically for suckler beef and that “no stone should be left unturned” to develop a suckler beef brand.
“ICSA is also working on this issue with our partners in Farm Europe, who want segmentation of the market, whereby suckler beef is developed as a special high-value product.”
“Selling beef to China as a low-price commodity is not going to solve the crisis facing the suckler herd,” Graham concluded.