Progress is being made on the substantive concerns raised by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) around changes to the beef indices, IFA livestock chair Declan Hanrahan said.

The comment came following the third meeting of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) stakeholder group this week.

He said the lower weights issue in the indices has concluded, with the minimum weight set at 520kg at 200 days after calving, which equates to a mature cow weight of 570kg. This will now be incorporated into the indices.

Weanling production index

The IFA sought an index that reflects weanling production specifically and detailed data provided over the course of this and the previous meeting by both the ICBF and Teagasc supports this position.

He said various data sources were appraised at the meeting to identify the most suitable cows for this production system, with agreement to assess the most appropriate mechanism and data points to develop the index.

“One of the challenges in this process will be setting the parameters for the data, given the spread in age of sales of weanlings and stores from suckler farms in the country, with weanling price and daily liveweight gain some of the considerations,” he said.

Maintenance cost of cows

Declan Hanrahan said a key component of this index will also be the maintenance cost of the cow on these predominantly extensively-stocked farms.

Teagasc has agreed to carry out further detailed analysis in this area to ensure the data used accurately reflects the actual on-farm costs, which are critical in establishing an economic index.

“There were detailed discussions around carbon and its inclusion in the indices, the weighting attributed to it and the costings used.”

He said this is a key issue and further interrogation of how it is reflected, if at all in the indices, is required with ideally some proposals coming forward to the next stakeholder meeting.

SCEP eligibility

Declan said through the stakeholder forum to date, concerns around Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) eligibility and the lower cow weights have been addressed.

Significant work has been done on developing the weanling index and discussions are ongoing on the carbon issue.

He said the critical issue when the process concludes is that the indices and the ICBF have the trust of suckler farmers and pedigree breeders.

“Progress is being made in addressing some of the genuine concerns originally raised with indices and this work must continue at the next meeting, which is scheduled for July,” he concluded.