Concerns raised over decline in NI suckler numbers

Suckler cow figures in Northern Ireland have dropped
Suckler cow figures in Northern Ireland have dropped

Northern Irish farmers have highlighted their concern regarding the continued decline in suckler cow numbers and significant drop in suckler calf registrations.

Last week Livestock and Meat Commission’s (LMC) bulletin highlighted a decrease of almost 17,000 beef calves registered to suckler cows in January-July 2019, when compared to the same period in 2017.

Suckler cow figures in Northern Ireland have dropped from 344,704 in 1998 to 255,904 in June 2018 highlighting the direction the region's vulnerable beef sector is heading.

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said the impact of this decline will have a 'huge knock on effect' on the local NI economy.

The Northern Irish beef and sheep meat sector is worth £1.3billion, and suckler beef has a major part to play in generating this figure.

UFU deputy president David Brown said: “As we have stressed many times before, beef farmers have their backs to the wall regarding market prices which are being aggravated by Brexit.

“This fall in suckler numbers represents the hardship our beef farmers are facing.

“They are making serious decisions regarding their farm businesses which is alarming for the future of the beef sector,” he said.

In order to stabilise and sustain the suckler herd population, Mr Brown said that farmers need better protecting.

“The loss of the ANC payment will add further financial difficultly for our suckler farmers.

“Going forward they need support to keep them in business and to ensure the future of our NI beef sector.

“A future policy needs to be created to support the productivity and profitability of the sector,” he said.

Other agriculture sectors depend on the business they do with suckler farmers and the countryside also benefits from suckler herds which tend to graze on less favoured areas, the UFU added.