The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has called for a “total revamp” of the Dairy Beef Welfare Scheme to address the issue of dairy bull calf welfare. Pat McCormack, the president of the ICMSA, urged Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue to acknowledge that the scheme needs to be refunded, re-energised, and redesigned. McCormack stated that with these changes, the scheme could play a crucial role in developing a profitable and sustainable trade for bull calves. He also emphasized the need for the minister to consider the ICMSA’s proposed redesign of the scheme, especially in light of recent criticism faced by the dairy sector following an RTÉ Investigates program.
McCormack acknowledged that much of the criticism directed at the sector was justified. However, he expressed his frustration with commentators who lacked practical knowledge of the industry and seemed to harbor animosity towards commercial farming. He stated that he was no longer willing to sit and listen to lectures from individuals who sought to end the livelihoods of farmers. McCormack outlined some of the key principles that the ICMSA believes should be incorporated into a revised Dairy Beef Welfare Scheme.
One principle is that current beef production systems do not provide sufficient returns for farmers. McCormack pointed out that the alternatives available to these farmers, such as long-term land leasing and forestry, are not ideal. The ICMSA’s proposed scheme would offer farmers an option that still involves rearing livestock. McCormack also highlighted that dairy beef has been shown to be marginally more profitable than other beef systems.
In terms of the scheme’s terms and conditions, McCormack stated that it should be open to all livestock farmers, with agents and feedlots being excluded. Farmers applying to the scheme would rear calves from the dairy herd, and all male calves, as well as female calves with a beef sire, would be eligible. Calves would need to be less than six weeks old at the time of purchase. Farmers would be able to draw down an initial payment of €75 once the animal is weighed between six and ten months, with a second payment of €75 available after the animal is slaughtered. Steers would be slaughtered within 30 months, while heifers would be slaughtered within 24 months. Additionally, farmers would only be able to avail of the scheme for a maximum of 100 calves per year.
While McCormack acknowledged that the scheme is not a complete solution, he believed that it is a significant part of the answer. He claimed that it offers greater profitability, lower emissions, and the potential to address concerns around animal welfare. McCormack emphasized that the majority of farmers treat and care for their animals to the highest standards, and it is unfair to tarnish the entire sector based on the actions of a few individuals.