Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

Teagasc Director’s Remarks at Dublin Economics Workshop

The outgoing Director of Teagasc, Professor Gerry Boyle, said today Friday, 24 September, that he profoundly regrets that his unscripted response to a question at a recent Dublin Economics Workshop has caused such considerable annoyance and offence to so many beef producers and advisory colleagues within Teagasc. He said that he unreservedly apologises for the offence caused.

Teagasc Director’s Remarks at Dublin Economics Workshop

He went on to remark that this was never his intention and while his remarks were taken out of context, their effect was nevertheless to deeply offend so many people that he had worked with over the years.

Professor Boyle said that his remarks were taken to imply that Teagasc had adopted a policy position in favour of dairy beef over sucklers. This impression was most unfortunate for two reasons. First, he stated that Teagasc’s role was not to promote any particular enterprise. Secondly, the impression created by his remarks was completely contrary to the substantial investment that Teagasc had made in its beef programme during his period as Director.

Teagasc, he said, had no business being involved in policy advocacy. Teagasc’s role is to undertake quality research and advisory work on all feasible farming enterprises and to lay out the facts concerning margins and sustainability before farmers. Farmers then assess this information in consultation with their advisors and decide for themselves whether to adopt the given enterprise. Farmers, he said have to make the investments and take the risk. Teagasc he agreed had absolutely no role whatsoever in advocating any particular enterprise.

Professor Boyle noted that he himself had developed this position over the years and that it was also endorsed by the Teagasc Authority on several occasions. He agreed that it was most unfortunate that his remarks would cause this position to be called into question.

He said Teagasc’s role was to improve the livelihoods of Irish farmers on a sustainable basis. Teagasc’s advisors and researchers work on a daily basis in pursuit of this objective and he hoped that his ill-considered remarks would not affect this great work.

The outgoing Director then went on to document the level of Teagasc activity in supporting Ireland’s beef farmers.

He pointed out that Teagasc provides an integrated set of research, advisory and education services to Irish farmers.  The Authority strives to invest resources in accordance with the economic importance of the beef sector to national exports and rural development.

He said that about 140 Teagasc advisors provide an outstanding service to beef farmers throughout the country. This commitment contrasts with 89 advisors in dairy and 16 in Tillage.

Teagasc’s commitment to the sector through its education system is equally impressive. Well over 2,000 students are studying beef farming at Teagasc’s colleges. They are supported by about 20 highly committed and qualified teachers. In total almost 700 head of stock are employed throughout the beef teaching programme occupying a total of about 330 hectares.

In recent years, Teagasc has greatly expanded and invested in its research programme in beef. It has two research demonstration farms for suckler beef … the Derrypatrick Farm at Grange and the Newford Farm at Athenry, (as well as the Maternal Breeding Herd at Grange) … that show how margins can be maximised following best practice research. It’s newly launched SignPost Farms Programme will build on the previously highly successful BETTER Beef and Green Acres Programmes. Teagasc has also been undertaking a highly successfully series of trials in dairy beef at Grange and Johnstown Castle in recent years.

Teagasc research to support the beef sector has undergone substantial transformation in recent years. Teagasc now assigns its best geneticists and grassland scientists to work collectively across beef, sheep and dairying. This has generated profound benefits in genetic gain and grassland management. The evidence across the research programme shows that a gross margin per hectare of €1,000 plus is feasible in both suckling and dairy calf to beef systems. The Maternal Herd Replacement Index research at Grange is delivering benefits. The Dairy Calf to Beef Research at Johnstown Castle has shown that good sire selection can be worth an extra €210 in gross margin per calf.

Ongoing work in areas such as anthelmintic resistance, floor type and space, disbudding and castration procedures, improving reproductive efficiency, feed efficiency, the value of grass-based beef and the nutritional benefits of beef is delivering real economic benefits to our beef farmers.

Professor Boyle noted Teagasc’s role in leading Meat Technology Ireland as it invests over €8 million in the beef industry that will also deliver very real benefits to the sector.

Asked about climate change, Professor Boyle, said that the published targets presented major challenges to Ireland’s livestock sectors. He said Teagasc’s position was that the implementation of its MACC measures could ensure a stable national herd. He also reiterated that biogenic methane should have a separate target.