What’s been happening during February for beef & lamb?

Friday, 6 March, 2020

Beef and lamb policy update by policy officer, Daryl McLaughlin

CAFRE/AFBI beef facilities

On 3 February Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) representatives held a meeting with College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI) representatives to get an update on the beef facilities project. The UFU have been calling for new beef facilities for several years now. The UFU has highlighted this on several occasions with former Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Ministers and past and present DAERA Permanent Secretarys. The UFU office bearer team has also discussed the project with the new DAERA Minister Edwin Poots.

NI Beef & Lamb FQAS

On 11 February UFU representatives attended the Farm Quality Assured Scheme (FQAS) industry board. Matters discussed included annual accounts, 2020/2021 FQAS budget, antibiotic resistance, Red Tractor equivalence, lifetime assurance and risk management. The UFU remains to oppose lifetime assurance and unannounced inspections for Northern Ireland beef and lamb farmers.

AFBI update

On 14 February UFU alongside AFBI representatives received an update on research and knowledge transfer from a research prospective. This was a very positive meeting and AFBI are now more engaging and willing to take on board considerations that will be of more benefit to beef, sheep and upland farmers. Issues discussed included new research projects, carbon foot-printing, carbon sequestration, BovIS beef GHG calculator, and beef and sheep grass check.

Future support update

This is a key area of focus for the policy committee. Statistics from the DAERA farm business incomes show that the cattle and sheep sector remain the lowest in terms of income. Without farm support the cattle and sheep sector would not exist as they depend massively on support to provide an income. Suckler beef cow numbers are now at their lowest since 1988 and breeding ewe numbers continue to fall.

Union representatives are continuing to attend meetings with the Andersons Centre, facilitated by Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) to focus on suckler beef and sheep future farm support. Discussions are currently focusing on key research findings, desired outcomes, public good benefits and the impact on economic output and rural society. The last meeting took place on 2 February.

There now must be considerations with the new Northern Ireland Protocol that the UK Government and the European Union have signed up to. What comes ahead in relation to the UK/EU trade talks is very much unclear yet and we remain hopeful that the outcome will be in favour for all our farmers.

Sheep health and welfare group (SHAWG) update

On 24 February UFU representatives attended a meeting in Stoneleigh to discuss sheep health and welfare. This is a group that meets three times a year with stakeholders from all around the UK. Matters discussed at the last meeting included ruminant health and welfare group update, 2020 SHAWG conference, RUMA 2020 and SCOPS Update.

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) Meat The Future event

On 25 February UFU representatives attended the Meat The Future, Scottish red meat conference in Glasgow. Sustainability and the environmental impact of red meat has been very topical issues with regards to livestock production in recent times. Farmers across the UK feel aggrieved by some of the un-factual information being displayed and has fuelled a growing interest in vegetarianism and flexitarianism. The QMS event brought together a wide range of speakers and scientists to discuss the good work that red meat farmers are doing to produce some of the healthiest, safest, nutritious red meats across the globe. The world is changing, consumers are changing so we all must adapt to change. It is up to us all to ensure that our consumers have confidence in the red meat our industry produces. We must have a supply chain that can work together but it can only be built on supply chain efficiency, integrity and consumer confidence. Hence why it is so important that our beef and sheep sector becomes more profitable and sustainable going forward.