Beef support is at the top of UFU agenda

Securing a sustainable support package for Northern Ireland’s beef sector remains a priority for the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), according to the organisation’s Cattle and Sheep Committee chairman Sam Chesney.

He said: “We are working through the various policy options at the present time. However, Government must realise that the beef industry plays a critical role from both a food production and environmental protection perspective.”

Chesney spoke at a recent meeting for beef producers, hosted by United Feeds. He continued:

The jury is still out on whether or not coupled payments will feature prominently in the support schemes made available to the beef industry moving forward. However, full recognition must be taken of the fact that suckler cows play an absolutely vital role in maintaining both the economy and the environment of our hill areas.

The UFU representative highlighted the potential threat posed by beef imports into the UK from countries like Brazil. He explained:

“The UK remains the world’s most valuable beef market. It is up to the government in London to maintain the current tariff regime, where beef imports are concerned.

Northern Ireland’s beef producers must be provided with a level playing field in every sense of the term.

Greater levels of efficiency

Chesney runs a suckler beef and sheep farm on the Ards’ Peninsula in Co. Down. Courtesy of his presentation to the meeting, he stressed the potential for beef and sheep contract production arrangements with UK supermarkets.

“But securing greater levels of efficiency must also be a priority for the industry as a whole. This encompasses breeding, grassland management and feeding.

I estimate that an average of £200 could be taken out of the cost incurred in finishing every prime beef animal produced in Northern Ireland at the present time.

United Feeds’ Business Development Advisor Andrew Fyffe also addressed the meeting. He confirmed that very small changes to a beef management system can deliver considerable benefits for the business as a whole.

“Finishing cattle like consistency: they are creatures of habit,” he stressed.

“In practical terms this means feeding them at the same time every day and also ensuring that the feed on offer is the same, day-in: day-out.

So simple things like running the feeder wagon for the same amount of time on every occasion that a batch of feed is made-up can make a real difference to the performance achieved.”

The United Feeds’ representative also stressed the relevance of finishers analysing the dung their cattle are producing on a regular basis. He explained:

“This can be quite easily carried out using a manure sieve. This separates dung into three different components, based on particle size.

“This process allows for an accurate assessment of how much feed animals are actually utilising. Farmers who do not have a sieve should ask their nutritionists to carry out the test once a month.”