McConalogue pledges to maintain numbers in national cattle herd

Budget 2020 ‘to help farmers continue to produce food, while cutting climate emissions

The national cattle herd will not be reduced as a result of climate change measures in coming years, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said.

Addressing a post-Budget2022 briefing in Dublin, Mr McConalogue said that while stabilising numbers in the national herd would be “a challenge”, it is a goal to which he is committed to achieving.

Mr McConalogue was speaking after some farmers and political commentators expressed fears that the need to reduce emissions would spell the end of many beef cattle and dairy farms.

Mr McConalogue also acknowledged concerns from farmers over climate change measures contained in the budget, which are in line with the target of a 51 per cent cut in emissions by 2030, with implications for every part of the economy.


“We have to be working off the basis of a stable national herd,” he said.

Asked if there would be cuts in the numbers of the national herd he said; “No. I want to be able to continue to produce the foods we produce”.

He said climate change would make food production “more challenging in the years ahead” but he there was “a parallel reality that we do have to produce food and the world has to eat.

“We are very successful and very sustainable in relation to the model we have in place”.

While he said it is important that Ireland continues to produce that food, it is “equally important that we reduce the footprint and the emissions from how we produce it and there are many measures that we can take to doing that”.

Asked if her party would be happy with maintaining the national herd at current numbers, Minister for State Pippa Hackett of the Green Party said the question of concern was about emissions levels, rather than numbers of cattle. She agreed with Mr McConalogue that there were a range of measures worthy of consideration.

Mr McConalogue also responded to allegations from IFA president Tim Cullinan that the Government had "reneged" on a commitment to allocate a portion of the Carbon Tax Fund to agriculture in Budget 2022.

Mr McConalogue said protecting gains achieved in the current year’s budget had been a major priority for him, and funding agriculture measures directly through the carbon fund would happen in budgets ahead.

Minister for State Martin Heydon said the Budget had delivered, for the first time, a dedicated fund for the promotion of farm safety measures. He said farm safety was an important issue, with five deaths so far this year, and up to 20 in recent years.

He said new funding would play a significant role in the drive to achieve a cultural change around safety on our farms.

“They are working environments and we must continue to work together to make them safer. Reductions in the rate of fatal and serious incidents on farms will happen only by changing behaviours, increasing awareness, training, and investment in key farm safety and farmer mental health and wellbeing measures.”

Mr Heydon also welcomed ongoing support for mental health measures which he said were affected by isolation and succession issues.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist