The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) has warned of the dairy sector’s “self-destruction” when it comes to the issues surrounding calf welfare.
ICMSA president Pat McCormack said: “We need to have greater integration of dairy beef rather than self-destruction.”
Asked what he meant by “self-destruction”, McCormack said “[dairy farmers] producing animals not fit for purpose for the beef sector”.
He made the comments in an interview about a new welfare charter being introduced by the Irish Co-Operative Organisation Society (ICOS).
The charter would see dairy farmers banned from slaughtering calves at less than eight weeks of age from 2024 onwards.
The Tipperary dairy farmer said the ICMSA agrees with the idea of such a ban “in principle” but suggested that it’s more about “how we get there”, and all dairy sector stakeholders being aligned.
He said that from a reputational perspective, the dairy sector “can’t continue” with numbers like the 30,000 calves slaughtered from dairy farms so far in 2022.
To address the issue, McCormack said stakeholders need to “get on the same page” to avoid “mixed messages”.
He described how farmers could go to one industry event and come away with one message concerning dairy farm profitability and the next with something “completely different”.
“You could breed what is potentially the most profitable cow but she may create an offspring not fit for purpose for beef,” he said.
The ICMSA president suggested that if the Department of Agriculture was “proactive” when it comes to the “small minority” of farmers creating calf welfare issues, “there would be no need for the [ICOS] proposal”.
“The Department seems to not be doing it so others have to take it on instead,” he said.
He said farmers breeding calves from Jersey cows, “have to have a plan and a viable plan for that offspring” and that sexed semen can only go “so far”.