Control of Bulls for Breeding Bill, 1985: Second Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 27 February 1985

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 356 No. 5

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Sheehan: Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  EC Council Directive 77/504 on pure bred breeding animals provides for the harmonisation of breeding quality standards and for such related matters as the recognition of breeders' organisations and associations, the establishment and recognition of herd books and standards governing the entry of animals into the herd books. In essence, this EC legislation stipulates that the quality of animals entering the herd books should [867] be of good standard and that quality control should be exercised by the breeding societies concerned.

However, the directive does not cover the use of non-pure bred bulls. It shows clearly that under the directive it is not necessary for our Minister to pursue the policy of having only complete pure bred bulls entered in the herd books. The door is open for the introduction of the three-quarter bred bull of high quality which would be of immense benefit to small farmers on the western seaboard. The three-quarter bred Hereford or continental would be a very suitable animal, with more crossing particularly of the Charolais and the Friesian and the Friesian and Hereford. This type of animal is badly needed for the bleak, windswept exposed areas along the western and south western seaboard. We are all not fortunate enough to live in the lush pastureland of Limerick, north and east Cork, Tipperary or even in the strawberry garden county of Wexford. In the south western areas we are exposed to severe weather conditions during the winter months. Along that seaboard there is a growing need for the introduction of the three-quarter bred bull under the new scheme.

It is all very fine to say that farmers can benefit from the establishment of AI stations. Many farmers are 100 or 120 miles away from the nearest AI station. Many of them are small part time farmers but they contribute their fair share towards the agricultural economy. I am speaking on behalf of the man who does a little fishing in the summertime and finds it very difficult to keep a watchful eye on his flock or herd. The presence of a three-quarter bred bull with that herd would be of great assistance to the farmer. This scheme is very suitable for the full time farmer who milks 150 to 200 cows and who is with his herd from morning to night, but we must bear in mind that not everyone is fortunate enough to be in that category. On behalf of those people I ask the Minister to give these people a chance under the new scheme.

[868] There are 111,100 farmers with herds of less than 20 cows. How can these farmers purchase a pure bred bull which will cost between 2,000 and 3,000 guineas, or even more? Recently a bull sale was held in Cork and, as the Minister knows, the majority of the animals cost 2,000 to 4,000 guineas. This is beyond the financial capabilities of any small farmer on the western seaboard. I believe it should not be beyond the bounds of possibility for the Minister to devise a scheme whereby the Department's livestock inspector, with the ACOT adviser, would carry out yearly inspections to license high quality breeding bulls, that is, the three-quarter bred animal, to service the herds along the western seaboard.

The recommendations in this Bill were made by the cattle advisory committee to the Minister. There are 15 members on this committee but not one member represents the 111,100 small farmers with herds of under 20 cows. This is blatant discrimination against small farmers in disadvantaged areas. Whoever picked the members of this committee did not have the interests of the small farmers at heart. I dislike the move in this country and in Europe to annihilate the small man. He is part of our society and he must have a place in the farming community because he is the backbone of our economy.

We must remember that with a confined acreage, as is the case with small farmers from Malin Head to Mizen Head, it is impossible to make a living from full time farming. These farmers must have an off-farm occupation to augment their income. If they do not, they will be on the breadline. That is why we want included in this Bill a provision under which farmers in disadvantaged areas will have access to cattle breeding facilities with bulls of high quality approved by the Department of Agriculture, having been passed by the livestock inspector in co-operation with the ACOT adviser.

In my view the three-quarter bred bull is a dual purpose animal. If we confine the scheme to pure bred animals this will mean that the price of those animals will [869] escalate and the small farmer will be unable to purchase them. As well, the demand on the AI stations will be so severe that the farmer may not be able to get the breed he needs. For years the scheme which has been abolished served the country well. I want to underline that the small farmer today is not a fool as far as cattle production is concerned. He knows that when he exports his products the calf must be up to quality to gain the top price. He is also aware that it does not pay dividends to breed inferior animals.

I have no doubt that the wrong recommendations were made to the Department by the board of the cattle advisory committee. I appeal to the Minister to reconstitute that board and to ensure that the small farmers along the western seaboard are represented on the new board because they are a formidable group in the agricultural community.

A high percentage of bulls in the New Zealand young progeny testing today are non-pedigree and we can see the important role New Zealand is playing in world beef production. The New Zealand agricultural authorities would not introduce this type of progeny testing for bulls which are not pure bred were it not that they are very suitable for beef production. I ask the Minister to give recognition to the appeals of the groups representing the small farmers in the west.

The milk quota problems will give rise to major problems and there will be a switch from milk to beef. Consequently there will be a very heavy demand for beef breeds on AI stations. We must remember that it costs £11.50 per AI service. This fee will be a considerable strain on the income of small farmers in disadvantaged areas. In my view, when there is a monopoly the charge will not remain at £11.50; it will be nearer £20 in a very short time. I am afraid this could have a very serious effect on the quality of the animal and on the amount of cattle production in the disadvantaged areas.

I ask the Minister to bear in mind the facts I have outlined and to include a clause in the Bill which would make it [870] possible for the farmers in the disadvantaged areas to retain for breeding purposes in their herd a three-quarter bred animal of the strain I have mentioned. This would be in accord with the regulations as laid down in Directive 77/504. If it is acceptable under the EC regulations, surely it should be acceptable to our Minister and our Government. If the Minister cannot yield to the request I have made to him, at least he should reintroduce the AI subsidy for cattle breeders in the disadvantaged areas.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  We on this side of the House accept in principle what is proposed in this Bill. We all recognise the importance of agriculture and the importance of having a good strain of cattle. We should concentrate on having the best breeds provided in order to gain the maximum benefit for our economy and for agriculture in general.

I do not agree that the Bill deals only with the abolition of scrub bulls. In legislation since the State was founded it was illegal to have scrub bulls. The Department dealt with that fairly efficiently. The scheme dealing with Department bulls, as they were known, will now be abolished and the system which operated in the poorer areas will be hit fairly drastically because of the proposals in this Bill. We are all aware of what happened in relation to the provision of Department bulls as they were commonly known. Departmental officials and inspectors went to various shows and selected bulls which were suitable for the backward areas. That scheme worked very well.

Under the proposed legislation in future only pure bred animals will be available. It will be almost impossible for the person who provided the service for the local farming community to avail of pure bred animals, desirable as they may be. These animals will be very costly. First there will be the initial cost of purchasing the animals and because of the fact that they are pure breds it will cost a great deal more to have them properly maintained and fed. The system which worked very effectively down through [871] the years will be abolished as a result of this Bill.

In the more backward areas the farming community are very limited in the type of cattle they can rear on their holdings. In the main they are confined to Herefords, Shorthorns and Aberdeen Angus. They concentrated on these breeds because they knew they could rear those animals in conditions which would not be suitable for pure bred stock. I can see tremendous difficulties for small farmers. I do not know, but it may be possible to have the breeds I mentioned provided in pure bred stock. I hope it will, but it will be very difficult for small farmers in the west to maintain them.

We should not lose sight of the fact that the small farmers in the west contribute a great deal towards providing store cattle for the farmers in the midlands. If we discourage that valuable work which has been done, we will prevent them from providing beef cattle in the areas where the land is suitable for them to put on the necessary weight. Some of the continental breeds have been crossed fairly successfully with the breeds I mentioned. Charolais-Hereford crosses have produced quite a good animal. I see problems in the practical operation of this Bill. I am not sure that it will be as easy to operate it as the legislation suggests.

I want to impress on the Minister the importance of trying to maintain the status quo in relation to breeding styles which have worked very well for us down through the years. In general, farmers realise that when they produce an animal at a mart unless it is a quality animal they will not get the price they desire. They realise that there is no point in having animals which are not of the correct weight to get the best price.

The milk levy was also mentioned. Unfortunately for some of the small farmers in my part of the world, we were rather slow in getting into milk in comparison with other parts of the country. This means people find it difficult to take off, and they have to concentrate on rearing beef cattle. As I said, this work has been done successfully by the Department [872] over the years in the small farming areas. I hope the Minister and the Department will not be too restrictive in the implementation of this Bill.

The AI services have done a worthwhile job. The service which had been provided for farmers in the small farm area would be hindered as a result of this Bill. We hope that a monopoly will not be created and prices for AI services increased to the extent that small farmers will be penalised again. Will the Minister consider the possibility of trying to maintain the position that exists at the moment in relation to providing the service which the small farmers are accustomed to and make subsidies available for pure bred animals to people who are prepared to continue to provide this service? Consideration should also be given to the possibility of introducing a maintenance allowance to assist farmers to get this scheme off the ground. From the practicable point of view a lot of obstacles will have to be faced.

I would ask the Minister to be flexible in his approach and to try to maintain the service that has worked well over the years. The Department are to be complimented on their efforts to facilitate small farmers in providing bulls of a suitable calibre up to now. While it is important to follow EC regulations, I often get the impression that we go overboard in trying to be good Europeans while other countries carry on in their own way. What has worked well for us should be maintained and we should do nothing in this Bill to curtail the work the Department have been doing in helping the small farmers in the west of Ireland.

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  I did not intend to speak on this Bill because I had thought it would be a formality and that it would pass very quickly. However, nearly every Deputy who has spoken, except the Minister, has opposed it or expressed reservations. It is essential that a speaker from the east coast speaks up in relation to the commonsense of this Bill. I welcome and support this Bill. We are dealing with the principle of quality control related to genetic merit. If we were discussing in [873] the form of an industrial debate here, the role of the IIRS in quality control would be of importance and there would be no special feeling for small businesses in that context. Since October 1982, when the effective working of the 1925 Act was abolished with the abolition of the bull licensing system, there has been an open situation whereby people can use any bulls they like. That is not acceptable from a quality point of view. If we look at the strategic and vital importance of the cattle industry to the overall economy we must be resolute in ensuring that we have the highest quality possible. The latest trends in food production show that quality is at a premium. We have seen the operation of quotas in relation to the super-levy for milk. We are likely to see the same in relation to beef and grain. If we put restrictions on quantity there will always be a premium on quality. Not only because farmers will be rewarded for it should this be done, but we must remember that it pays to follow pedigree lines and not only because all the data from the beef classification scheme has suggested that there is lower carcase quality with inferior breeding: if we look at the area of conversion feed ratios or the area of dairy yields per cow and compare Irish and European averages, we will see that underlying all of this is the need to breed better to have quality.

A Bill which controls bulls for breeding purposes based on quality deserves the utmost support of this House. Whatever about Irish farmers, the most important people are the people who buy our products — the West German consumers, the Italian consumers and so on. They have clearly laid down their requirements in relation to lean meat. It is appropriate that the consumer dictates developments on the farm. It may seem insignificant that since October 1982 there has not been full enforcement in this area, but breeding by its nature is such that there is always a time lag. If the Department were to take a very relaxed attitude over a period we would see a deterioration in the quality of the national herd, especially in suckler and beef herds that are so essential for our ultimate quality beef [874] products. When we consider these minority objections we must realise that we cannot throw the baby out with the bath water and that hard cases make bad law. If the Department were to relent under the pressure of certain people in disadvantaged areas and certain Deputies in this House, it would be to the overall detriment of the breeding policy and of a vital national industry.

A far more contentious area relates to the question of the AI subsidy. This used to operate at £5 per insemination per cow and it was subsidised 50 per cent by the Department and 50 per cent by European funding. That was abolished here this year but it still operates in Northern Ireland at £3 per head and therefore affects our competitiveness. If we wish to recognise the vital role that AI has played in our agricultural sector in regard to progeny testing — hard work that often went unpaid — the subsidy should be maintained at £3 per insemination. It is unfortunate that this Bill, which tightens up on the quality of breeding, should coincide with the abolition of the AI subsidy. When I was a farmer buying store cattle I would buy only black white head bullocks because they were pure Friesian and pure bred Herefords crossed. If we do not support AI there is no doubt that we are only giving lip service to quality control. It is very important that the subsidy be brought back at £3 per head.

In relation to the Sneem representatives and other Deputies, they mentioned that there are 100,000 dairy and suckler herds where problems will arise because of this Bill. They have said that the owners of these herds are unable to afford a bull, that they do not have a telephone to contact the AI man, that the heat detection is such that it is not suitable for AI and that they have to have a bull which they cannot afford. Hard cases make bad law but if there is a problem here there is ample scope within section 3 (1) of this Bill, where it says:

The Minister may, in prescribed circumstances and on payment of the prescribed fee, grant to a person a permit authorising the person to have in his possession an unregistered bull subject [875] to and in accordance with such conditions as may be specified in the permit.

Registered bulls must be in the herd book and therefore they must be pure-bred or pedigree. If they are not I suggest that in the first year of the operation of the Act the Minister should issue permits for one year, on a transitional basis only, to cover disadvantaged cases. It would be entirely improper to have one rule for disadvantaged areas and another for the national herd. When issuing permits for unregistered bulls the Minister should take account of a very small minority who might suffer indisputable hardship.

Many Deputies who spoke early in the debate uttered a lot of nonsense. For instance, we heard scurrilous criticism of the Cattle Advisory Committee. That committee represents every section of the industry — exporters, the IFA, the ICMSA, ACOT, the Pedigree Council which represent 14 breeding societies and the county committees of agriculture. The Cattle Advisory Committee is therefore fully representative and to say otherwise is blatantly untrue and unfair. If some people had uttered their criticisms through farmers' organisations perhaps this could have been avoided.

Indeed because the Cattle Advisory Committee is so representative I should have liked to have seen a section in the Bill to give the Minister greater powers, through Ministerial order, to enforce other recommendations put forward by the committee. That could relate to the beef classification scheme or other matters such as health or new breeds of imported bulls. The Minister should have power to act expeditiously on recommendations of the committee. This should be reconsidered on Committee Stage.

The role of the herd societies has been the subject of the most scurrilous references during the debate. Deputies have suggested that these societies are seeking to establish a monopoly. I have heard it suggested outside the House that there might be some manipulation of recording in the herd book. That is totally improper. Deputy O'Malley referred to [876] anglophobia in relation to herd societies who are alleged to have connections in high places in relation to the Spring show. When people do not like farmers who are expressing a view for the betterment of agriculture based on quality they call them ranchers. Herd society members are very dedicated people. Last month I met a member of the Dorset Horn Sheep Breeding Society. He had dedicated all his life to the society and had not made any money from it. He had done it because of respect for and interest in the breed, not from financial consideration.

It could be construed from some of the debate that the effect of the Act will be to withdraw the Department from the regulation of bulls and replace them by the herd societies, purely for financial reasons. My understanding is that in 1982, when Fianna Fáil abolished bull licensing, there had been trouble with enforcement. There may be trouble with enforcement but the Cattle Advisory Committee should give every assistance to herd societies from the point of view of manpower and recording in the vital role they will have to play.

In 1984 applications for registration totalled 6,461 of which 11 per cent, 729, were rejected. However, 527 were accepted on re-application. That is most peculiar because people who had applied first and were refused were accepted with the same animal later. Therefore, perhaps there is a need for monitoring by the Cattle Advisory Committee, not to override the activities of the herd societies but to assist them, and it far more preferable that they do it rather than the Garda.

I suggest that criticism of the alleged monopoly depends on the bull sales Deputies have been attending. Bulls bought off farms are not making much more than what they would make if sold for slaughter purposes. Anything over and above carcase value that they have made has been related purely to their quality. There is no doubt that the AI system will keep a balance on any alleged monopoly but it must be remembered that the breeding and herd societies are not looking for a monopoly. They are [877] trying to ensure that the quality of the national herd will be improved. What the societies have been trying to do is to explain to farmers, as ACOT and other advisory groups have been trying to do, that if you breed better you will get a better return because you will have a better carcase — there will be higher quality leaner meat. There is no doubt that the market is the best communicator to farmers. What is being spoken of here is quality enforcement.

I regret that some people have sought to put the needs of a minority before the national interest in this matter. Far greater issues are at stake, including the national herd. Our greatest problem in the cattle trade has been the dwindling of the beef herd from 541,000 to 440,000 in 1983. We have a potential of at least half a million head of cattle. This is where there is hope for growth in GNP and extra jobs in the added value food sector. Our policy must be to reverse the trend. Many countries, whether third countries or Canada, where we have trade surpluses are only looking for an excuse to get out of those deals, and if we give them an excuse because of inferior carcases or antibiotic residues, they will be only too quick to use that to welch on deals. If we are to boost our national herd we must look at stocking loans, the rescue package and the whole cow disease eradication scheme. That is where the real wealth creation argument is. The time of this House would better be served in dealing with those issues and ensuring that there are proper incentives to expand the national herd rather than dealing with a simple Bill based upon quality control. This bill should have the full support of this House, because it will ultimately ensure production of Irish cattle of the highest quality.

Minister of State at the Department of Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism (Mr. M. Moynihan): Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  At the outset, while I agree in principle that this legislation is necessary to improve the quality of our cattle and advance our export trade in beef and beef products, along with other [878] Deputies from the western seaboard or the severely handicapped areas, I have serious reservations in relation to its application being in the best interest of these communities.

As the previous Deputy has said, there are in excess of 111,000 farmers with herds of less than 20 cattle. For a number of them, that would be a very high cattle rating and substantial numbers have ten and less than ten. There is worry and anxiety among farmers operating in that economic climate. Many people may not realise that when one is farming at the tip of one of the peninsulas stretching from Donegal to Cork, extending into the Atlantic, telephone services are vital for the implementation of the AI scheme, as there is often a round trip of 100 miles to be covered. The difficulties that that type of small farmer will be facing with the use of pedigree bulls only must be realised.

In section 3 of this Bill the Minister has what is necessary to meet the requirements of these disadvantaged areas, that is, the issuing of a permit of approval, subject to inspection, of a non-pedigree animal suitable to the area and the economics of the farmers in those locations. That will be in no way detrimental to the interests of farmers and stockholders generally who will accept, in their own best interests, the conditions laid down in this legislation.

Having regard to the individual farmers and to the different organisations which have pleaded with the Minister and with committees of agriculture and others in relation to these matters, these people are very genuine, dedicated and committed to the advancement and development of our cattle business in the smaller and severely handicapped areas. These people are not advocating and never have advocated the use of scrub bulls or such animals as would be detrimental to the development of our cattle trade. They are genuinely concerned that if the necessary provision is not made, this legislation will have a severe impact on them.

We must recognise that within the severely handicapped and disadvantaged areas a high standard of stock has been maintained at tremendous effort and [879] sacrifice, the herds being built up by individuals, families and communities over the years. I remind the Minister that there is nothing unreasonable or in conflict with the best interests of the cattle trade in these areas in what these people are legitimately seeking. If the Bill goes through without allowing for a permit for the use of non-pedigree bulls in certain specified areas of the severely handicapped sector this would have a detrimental effect on the total development there.

These people are making a worthwhile contribution to finding a way to follow the best interests of the cattle trade as a whole, taking account of their severe handicap in the implementation of the cattle and suckler schemes in their area. I urge the Minister, on Committee Stage, to indicate an expansion of section 3 to provide adequately for what these people are seeking. They ask for the granting of approval under a departmental or ACOT inspector for the use of non-pedigree bulls.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  I also wish to speak on this Bill. The heat generated in my constituency by its publication has highlighted the differences between the various farming areas. On the one hand, those with good, substantial herds welcome this Bill in so far as these farmers have always used pedigree bulls and they see this Bill as an improvement on the current position. However, as previous speakers have outlined, there are problems in the disadvantaged areas, in particular with regard to the small farmer. Deputy Yates spoke of these as being a minority in terms of cattle numbers, but in terms of social effect and dependency, they are greater in number. I should like the Minister to turn his mind to the needs of these people on Committee Stage.

As the Minister, Deputy Moynihan, suggested, there is an advantage in giving the small farmer in the disadvantaged areas protection. These can be designated under the terms of this Bill. Some accommodation can be reached, whether by way of a transition period or of a pilot [880] scheme for transition into this Bill. The Bill will be very good for the national herd, but the Minister should take into account that there will be a considerable cycle before the full effects are felt. There could be a lapse of ten years. These changes of a fundamental nature are necessary, especially if we are to keep up our export trade which is so vital to our needs.

I appeal to the Minister to favourably consider the plight of those in the disadvantaged areas. Every time progressive legislation comes up, the weak position of the small under-capitalised farmers is highlighted. This additional cost factor, which will follow on the changeover from non-pedigree to pedigree bulls, is of vital interest to their industry. I support the Minister on this Bill, but appeal to him to consider the small farmer.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  It is very important that this Bill should be brought before the House. In October 1982, when the Minister made an announcement of the discontinuation of the licensing of bulls, I was surprised and disappointed by that move being made at that time. It could not be anything but detrimental to the quality of our cattle. I welcome the Bill with a certain amount of reservation. Like Deputy Carey, I come from the mainly disadvantaged area of County Clare.

A lot can be done to improve the terms of the Bill on Committee Stage. I am not satisfied that a monopoly should be given over to the various breeding societies. It is important that there be an input by the Department of Agriculture and that the inspectors who operated in the past be re-employed to work in conjunction with the breeding societies. In the long term I do not think it would be in our best interests that breeding societies be given a monopoly in the licensing of bulls. I understand that the Department of Agriculture will establish an advisory council but for the system to be effective we must have inspectors working in conjunction with breeding societies.

One must consider the number of pedigree bulls available at present. When [881] the Bill is passed the high demand for such animals will result in an inflated price being asked. There is room for improvement in that regard and the Minister should consider having a transition period of four or five years and introduce the terms of the Bill gradually. To introduce its provisions immediately would mean that small farmers would face enormous costs. Many of them would be in severe financial difficulty and would be hindered in their development plans. The Minister must consider the licensing of half and three-quarter bred bulls which were licensed in the past, particularly for beef breeding herds. There is need for improvement in that area. The general approach of the Bill in the long term is good but to introduce its provisions in one fell swoop would be unwise, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

There has been a lot of opposition to the provisions of the Bill in County Clare. The county committee of agriculture have informed me that at their meeting on 11 February they decided unanimously not to support its terms. It is the view of the committee that the reintroduction of bull licensing will not be in the interest of farmers in the west. The committee point out that the cost of pedigree bulls is outside the scope of many small farmers. I agree with the provision in regard to cost. There are many different strands involved in agriculture and while the provisions of the Bill may be suitable for certain areas they do not suit the disadvantaged areas. The Minister should consider that on Committee Stage.

Mr. M. Brennan: Information on Matt Brennan  Zoom on Matt Brennan  Many farmers in my constituency have suckling herds and I have no doubt that because of the super levy many more will have such herds. It will be difficult for such farmers to purchase pure bred bulls when the provisions in the Bill are implemented. They should be given some aid to enable them to run a bull with their herd. We must endeavour to breed the best cattle for our markets. Today I learned that the market is worth £1,500,000. Many cattle are [882] exported and it is important that they are of top quality. I suggest to the Minister that he reintroduce a subsidy to enable farmers to purchase bulls. Under the special term bull scheme which operated some years ago a farmer was given a grant towards the cost of purchasing a bull. When that scheme was in operation farmers were breeding cattle recommended by the Department. Until we return to that system it will be hard for small farmers who run a bull with suckling cows to keep up to the necessary standard.

We export cattle to Europe and outside the Community and for that reason we must have the best quality bulls. I am proud that the AI service in my constituency is such a good one. However, some farmers who have large suckling herds cannot avail of that service. The Minister should make a special arrangment for them. Unfortunately, our beef herd has dwindled in recent times. It is up to us to ensure that we get the best breeds for our export markets.

Mrs. A. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  A national breeding programme for cattle is essential. It is in the nation's interest that the Bill receive the full support of the House. Agriculture accounts for 25 per cent of our total exports. I do not have to remind Members that we are a net exporting country and our cattle exports represent 19 per cent of the total of agricultural exports. It is in our interest to ensure that the quality of the cattle we produce meets the demands of the market and rewards the producer. The effect of the Bill will be to repeal the Livestock Breeding Act, 1925, under which 7,000 bulls were visually inspected annually. Over the years the change in demands of the industry was reflected by the change in the type of bull for which licences or permits were issued. In the seventies there was such a demand for the continental type of bull, such as the Charolais and Simmental, that the number of pedigree bulls did not meet the requirements, with the result that cross-bred quality bulls were licensed. The need to breed specific products for a specific market was recognised. The continental cattle were producing the [883] leaner type carcases. At that stage the Hereford had been run down but that has since been redressed.

Under the 1925 Act two rounds of visual inspection were required annually with two possible appeal rounds. They were all carried out before a certain date at 400 different centres. That, together with the annual comb out for unlicensed bulls, was a very expensive system with a net cost to the Exchequer of £160,000 annually. In 1982 the Government decided to drop the scheme and cease the licensing of bulls. In my view that was a dastardly mistake from the long term economic standpoint. It was a false economy measure of the worst type. With no restrictions from then on in the use of bulls we are now witnessing the results with a rapid decrease in quality. That can be seen at our marts.

Bearing in mind that 80 per cent of our beef output is exported, the disastrous economic consequences are obvious. To be competitive in this market where we have great natural advantages we must use the best genetic material available and continue to select the most superior bulls to breed. That is what the Bill is all about.

This Bill will not be without its problems for certain sections of our farming community even though it is in the greater national interest. It is in the overall good. I have often said on farming and agricultural issues before that one could draw a line down the Shannon, but that which suits east of the Shannon will not suit west of the Shannon. We are practically two countries when it comes to agricultural issues and this one before us today is no different.

Heat detection in suckler cows for AI is extremely difficult. This factor, coupled with a situation in which many suckler cows are impossible to handle — they roam our mountains wild for the greater part of their existence and are impossible to handle from an AI point of view — will cause real problems for the small suckler herd owner in particular. The larger man, perhaps, can more easily justify the economics of a pedigree bull [884] to run with his herd. At present the small suckler herds have unlicensed bulls ranging in type from the reasonable to good conformation cross-breed to the scrub. These farmers perhaps initially will need help in relation to the purchase of a pedigree bull. However, these bulls are freely available from £800 to £1,200. Prices quoted are often those reflecting the top price at a show and bear little relationship to the average price. The bull can then be sold on at the end of each season so that no money is tied up for an undue length of time. All breeds have bulls in the three figure sums. If any farmer in any part of the country experiences difficulty in this regard the breed societies have offered to help find a bull at a reasonable cost and of good conformation. The economics are sound even for the small suckler herd owner and even though initially they may be sceptical. A good bull with a small suckler herd will increase the profitability and decrease the necessity for subsidy. It is in everybody's interest to ensure a smooth transition from the present situation to that envisaged in the Bill. Traditionally the value of a pedigree bull for crossing for commercial cattle was equivalent to the price of three bullocks; now it is equivalent to the price of one bullock.

With the advent of the super-levy we shall see greater specialisation on dairy farms. The Holstein has a role to play in herds of 1,200 gallons per cow and upwards only. Its conformation from a beef point of view is disastrous. We are unique in this country in that 80 per cent of our beef is produced from our dairy herds — we have no specialisation. It is vital to encourage more suckler beef production, ensuring it can be done economically, unlike the situation obtaining. It is proposed now to subsidise to the tune of £70 per suckler cow in disadvantaged areas. Serious consideration must be given to extending this scheme to the whole country based on the sound theory that an increase in the quality of the product, namely, beef, will give a greater return to the producer which in turn will [885] allow for an overall decrease in subsidisation on account of the independent viability of the operation. The surplus of liquid milk in the community must be used to increase our beef herd and to maximise the benefits therefrom. We must also exploit research on twinning and embryo transfers. The day on which we shall see twin calves from virtually every cow in the country is not too far distant. The research has been done, the technology is available. It is a road we must travel and travel fast to ensure we benefit from the situation and from scientific research.

We must ensure that our national herd numbers are increased. Our cattle population in 1984 was up marginally on that of 1983 at a figure of 2,069,500. 81,900 herds have beef cows, 70 per cent of those beef cow herds are located in disadvantaged areas.

The abolition of the AI subsidy is to be regretted. This, together with the super-levy I have mentioned, will cause a decline in the usage of AI. Apart altogether from the visual examination and herd book status AI bulls are all progeny tested with the milk board inseminating one-third of the cows in the country. The option of allowing the usage of quality half-bred or three-quarter bred bulls is not available as regulation is impossible. The breed societies would have no responsibility or function nor would the Department of Agriculture have any regulatory role to play. In any case we can never justify the suggestion that we should decrease our genetic material any further in view of the vital economic importance of the cattle industry to this country. If we want to maximise profit from the beef industry for our economy farmers must be rewarded for the production of quality in the future. They will have to be rewarded for producing a specific product for what is mainly an export market. Indeed the product must be produced from our meat processing industry. There is much talk from time to time about the amount of cattle exported on the hoof. There is tremendous room for improvement in the value-added area in this country for further vacuum packing and beef processing [886] generally and for small products. Anything we can do to encourage the production of the right product for this industry must be done. This Bill does just that. Third World countries are valuable clients of this industry, as instanced by the announcement of the last day or two but, to date, they have been less than particular about quality as a result of which standards have declined.

All the farming organisations support this Bill in its entirety, as it has the greater economic interest of the nation at heart.

The consequences of the super-levy have not been sufficiently appreciated by all sections of the community. In Wexford alone 112 dairy farmers have no quota at all and, in theory, can be caught for a levy on every gallon produced. These are progressive farmers who were advised by ACOT over the last few years to get into milk, who have invested heavily in an industry for which this country has a natural advantage. Is it not the philosophy of the EC that we concentrate industries in areas of greatest natural advantage? I thought it was; perhaps I was mistaken. What are the options now open to such farmers? Suckling must be one of the options if the economics of this operation could justify it. The surest method of achieving sound economics in a suckling operation is to produce high quality store and beef animals from our cows with the conformation and growth rate which will yield acceptable returns. The ability to make rapid economic growth with a good food conversion rate is an important characteristic of cattle and is hereditable. This quality will have to be rewarded and reflected in the market price. It is my view that lack of reward for quality constitutes the greatest drawback to the proper development of this critically important industry which contributes 19 per cent of the nation's total exports and which, in 1984, yielded £800 million to this economy.

The various cattle improvement schemes administered by the Department of Agriculture and through the county committees of agriculture have twin objectives alongside which this Bill [887] can stand. These objectives are increasing milk yields and the production of high quality store and fat stock for the home and export trades. Increased milk yields should be confined now to the efficient farmer optimising his situation. Other dairy farmers who, through inefficiency, age or whatever, should be encouraged to get out and leave the job to those who can do it best. The milk cessation scheme has this objective in mind but with the price conferred on milk quotas, with the advent of the super-levy, the economic effectiveness of this scheme in its present form is, at best, questionable.

The second objective of producing high quality stores and beef forms the basis of this Bill. That the overall economic good is served by the provisions of this Bill is in no doubt. However, there will be problems encountered, particularly in the case of the five to ten suckler cow herd man. I have no doubt that what suits most of the country in relation to this subject will not suit some others, particularly those in our disadvantaged areas. This can be examined. I am sure the interim transition problem can be resolved reasonably.

In general this is a very important Bill which will stand us in good stead for generations to come and I support it. Perhaps it is a case of being saved from ourselves.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  This is one of an increasing number of regulatory-type measures which have come before this House during the last couple of years. Taken in isolation, they may not appear to be very significant but their general effect is to introduce detailed regulations into minute areas of commercial activity and societal behaviour in some cases which, taken together, form a pattern of a very major commitment by the State to ordering the affairs of commerce and society. I wonder if anyone is taking the overall view of what the effect will be when the Government of the day are faced with an enormous array of regulations and legislation, EC and domestic, all of which [888] have to be policed and many of which may be unnecessary.

In this case, I am struck by the fact that a few weeks ago this House was regulating the right of people to grow and sell potatoes. We are now talking about bulls for breeding and it does not seem to matter whether the person concerned is a major entrepreneur in that field; these regulations govern everybody. Regardless of the size of the enterprise, people are expected to conform to a common denominator which is pitched well above the small man in that area. Concern has been voiced in this regard and there is a feeling that a substantial, vocal, articulate and influential group of breeders have managed somehow to persuade the Department that a Bill needed to be introduced to control this area of activity.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Rubbish.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  The perception is there although whether it is true is another matter. I know that some groups believe that if you are in business in a small way, you must conform or get out. I am not saying that view is necessarily correct but it exists. At some stage the hundreds of regulations and all the legislation which is introduced annually, to which people are expected to conform, should be viewed in terms of their impact on economic activity and the nature of government in society.

The Department of Agriculture should not be there mainly to serve farmers but should have equal concern for the consumer. The interests of the consumer in any agricultural debate are very rarely raised. The outcome of much of the agricultural legislation with which we deal is very seldom evaluated in terms of its effects on the consumer. The Department of Agriculture does not exist solely for farmers although, listening to some farmers' leaders and various Ministers for Agriculture over the years, one could be forgiven for believing that what was good for farmers was automatically good for the consumer and the country. I question that because, in 1982, we spent £905 million of public [889] funds on agriculture without insisting, as we would in the industrial area, that every penny of that expenditure was qualified by obliging the recipients to comply with public policy and pursuit of excellence with better breeding, without having to legislate or bludgeon people into that area of excellence. We should use public resources to ensure that that policy is brought about because the millions of pounds spent on agriculture is raised from the taxpayer and no distinction is made between the PAYE worker and the farmer. The consumers should have a voice in ensuring that their interests are heard in this discussion.

In 1983, a sum of £1,121 million was spent on agriculture. The figure for 1984 was £1,213 million and this year's Estimate is £1,393 million, an enormous sum of money. I bow to the superior expertise of many Members of the House in this respect but I am far from convinced that we have taken seriously the potential and the opportunity which that expenditure allows in shaping agricultural policy and bringing about improved standards in every sector of agriculture, which need every inducement possible to reach that standard of excellence. The way to achieve that may not necessarily be the introduction of regulatory Bills, the enforcement of which, if precedent is anything to go by, will be more honoured in the breach than in the observance. I do not know how it can be enforced and I am not sure if anybody else knows either. We should have concern for that when we increasingly introduce these relatively minor regulatory Bills which do not leave themselves open to easy enforcement.

I wish to voice one or two specific concerns which have not been put forward so far. I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of State to a group, the Sneem Development Co-Operative, who put forward a very reasoned view in relation to this legislation. Among the points they made was that the Bill generally tended towards furthering monopolies and I do not think it should be the business of the Government to do that because of the clear danger that arises [890] from the possibility of the abuse of monopolistic powers in this or any other area. They made the point that a monopoly would have very serious implications for the huge number of farmers with less than 20 cows because their income would not enable them to compete in regard to pedigree bulls. It is clear that that makes good sense. If you are a small man, there is a risk of being excluded from access. Perhaps there is an answer and I should be glad to hear it.

The monopoly which the Bill could encourage for pure bred bulls and very substantial gains for breeders of these animals is something which the House should take seriously. I hope that the suggestion by this group, who have a reasoned and moderate approach, will be taken up. They suggest that a clause should be inserted that in disadvantaged areas pedigree and quality non-pedigree bulls could be used. If that suggestion was adopted it might mean that people could be disabused of the perception that this Bill is about ensuring a monopoly for big breeders. I recommend that to the Minister for his consideration.

At some stage, the House must consider the growing impact of State involvement and regulation of an increasingly wide and comprehensive range of commercial activity. In the last few months, this House has involved itself in regulating commercial air transport, potato growers, breeding bulls and unmentionable items last week. The total view may very well be in direct contrast with what is happening abroad where deregulation is the norm and where private enterprise is allowed to flourish and is assisted by the State. Public funds are spent to create an environment in which people can prosper and the State does not feel obliged to control almost every area of human behaviour and commercial activity.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I do not want to delay the Bill unduly and most of the points relating to this measure have already been adequately discussed here. I acknowledge the principle behind the legislation, to improve the quality and standard of livestock. We all support this principle. I [891] have had representations from the farming organisations, the IFA and the Milk Suppliers Organisation in my constituency who feel that the Bill will present problems for small farmers and herd owners in remote and disadvantaged areas. Deputy Noonan has already suggested ways in which the legislation could be improved and areas which the Minister might look at to see how problems which farmers may have under the legislation can be minimised.

I am aware that in the past the Department, through the agricultural committees and local ACOT services; provided a limited facility in certain areas whereby pedigree bulls were made available. The scheme was very effective and popular. It was widely availed of and it was very successful during the period in which it was in operation. The Department identified quality bulls in the Spring Show and other shows, purchased them and made them available at a subsidised rate to farmers. I am not sure if it is desirable to go back to that position but unless some solution is found this legislation will present problems especially for those in the areas I have mentioned. If the Minister can go part of the way to meet the situation some of the complaints we have had about the effect of the legislation in severely handicapped and disadvantaged areas might be overcome.

I have had representations from the farming organisations in Clare. In Clare we have the shorthorn breed which is a dual purpose breed and is highly successful. Many of the farmers in my constituency are mixed farmers and do not specialise in either milk or beef. They need a breed which meets their dual requirements. As the Minister is fully aware, because of the crisis in the dairy industry and because many farmers are seriously worried about the prospect of getting a return for milk, many farmers, especially in my constituency, are considering extending into beef, an area in which they have not been traditionally involved. The farming organisations are concerned that this legislation will affect our unique position in Clare. I hope there [892] will be no adverse effects on the Clare shorthorn breed as a result of this legislation and I ask the Minister to see if anything can be done to protect the position of the Clare shorthorn bull.

We are in favour of the principle of improving the pedigree stock. However, we must recognise that there will be problems and hardship in some areas for those who can least afford it. I ask the Minister to look very seriously at the alternative suggestions being put forward and try to find some solution which will sort out this minor difficulty.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Liam Anthony Naughten  Zoom on Liam Anthony Naughten  It is my pleasure to welcome the Bill and I compliment the Minister for introducing it to the House. Like other speakers I feel very strongly that the regulations which existed prior to October 1982 should not have been interfered with. Undoubtedly it had a detrimental effect on the quality of cattle. Regulations were introduced in 1985 more or less to protect us against ourselves and to try to ensure that we would breed a better type of animal and improve the quality of our livestock. Unfortunately those regulations were changed in 1982.

I welcome the introduction of this Bill. It will mean a major improvement in the quality of our livestock. However, we must be conscious of the various problems which arose in this industry over the last few years since the change in those regulations. It is of vital importance to the industry that every effort be made to improve the quality of our livestock. We enjoy an excellent cattle trade at present but one of our major problems is quality. We have insufficient numbers to meet demand and the quality of our livestock is not suitable for many of our most lucrative markets. This Bill will, over the next five years, improve the quality of our cattle industry.

Most of the points I wish to make have been made already. I noticed when looking at figures from the Department of Agriculture that from 10 per cent to 15 per cent of animals which were presented for examination prior to 1982 were rejected. What steps will be taken by [893] cattle breeding societies to ensure that only quality animals are registered? Sometimes animals bred into pedigree herds are not always up to the required standard.

We cannot but be impressed by the amount of money which is being channelled into the Department through the different livestock schemes, whether it is the headage scheme, cow suckler scheme, beef cow scheme or calf premium scheme. Up to £64 million was spent under those headings in 1984. The State is entitled to demand quality when it is spending that kind of money. In the inspections which are carried out in relation to those schemes the sire of the calf should be clearly established to ensure that, as far as possible, all our calves are bred from pure bred stock.

I welcome the Minister's decision to tighten up the regulations and increase the fines, particularly in relation to scrub bulls which are roaming the countryside. For far too long we have tolerated this type of animal and this has been to the detriment of our livestock industry. I welcome the increase in fines in that respect but I regret that the regulations were changed because the cost of bull licensing was very worthwhile. In the context of the overall Vote for Agriculture the amount spent on livestock breeding schemes is very small.

I am asking the Minister to examine the question of what can be done in the area of new technology, particularly in the area of embryo implantation, a development for which there is a tremendous future but one on which we as an agricultural country have not concentrated sufficiently. Our cattle numbers are low and we must increase them fast if we are to increase our level of exports. Our agricultural exports comprise approximately 25 per cent of our total exports and cattle represent about 19 per cent of that figure. In other words, the cattle industry is the motor of our economy. We must do everything possible to increase numbers and to improve quality because otherwise we will not be able to sell on the best markets.

I, too, have received representations [894] from people expressing concern about the introduction of this scheme and pointing to the additional cost that will accrue to small farmers. I share that concern, but in the long term I am confident that the Bill will have the effect of bringing about a marked improvement in the quality of our cattle and that is why I support the Bill totally. While it may cause hardship for some farmers in the first year or two of its operation, we must have regard to the industry as a whole. We must legislate for what is in the best interest of the economy and of agriculture generally. Unfortunately, we cannot allow specific instances or the interest of any one area to influence us. Those of us who attend at livestock marts regularly are aware that much of our stock is of very poor quality. I compliment the Minister on introducing the Bill.

Mr. Kitt: Information on Michael P. Kitt  Zoom on Michael P. Kitt  I welcome the principle involved in the Bill. I agree entirely with the last speaker that we must be concerned about the quality of our cattle but I have received representations from a number of people about some of the implications of the legislation should it be passed without amendment. The Sneem Co-operative particularly made a very reasonable case. The Minister should have regard for their point of view. Many speakers have referred to the systems that have operated in the past. Without appearing to wish to move backwards in agriculture, I suggest that we have regard to some of those schemes, especially the one whereby the Department were involved in providing farmers with pedigree bulls. Deputy Noonan has referred to that aspect. The scheme had much to recommend it. However, if a return to that scheme is not possible some other arrangement might be made whereby a farmer could be subsidised in respect of a pedigree bull or a bull could be purchased by a farmer by way of easy terms instead of his having to make one large payment. I trust the Minister will be in a position to indicate the introduction of some such scheme.

We are all concerned about the quality [895] of our cattle, as is proper, since agriculture is our main industry. If we are to retain our place in the market and to increase agricultural exports, we must produce first-class animals.

The question of numbers is one also of great concern. I strongly support the type of research being undertaken at Belclare near Tuam. I have talked to the people involved in research at the institute there. They are concentrating on development in the embryo transfer area. This is the only method of achieving a high twinning rate in beef cows. The work being carried out at the institute by Dr. Sheenan and by Mr. Michael Diskin is very important. They have written many papers about management and the use of the twin producing procedure. This is the type of new technology that Members of the House should be addressing themselves to. The two gentlemen I have mentioned talk about the impact of induced twins and have stated that from the trials they have undertaken in co-operation with the North-West Cattle Breeding Society in Sligo the impact will be of great benefit to Irish agriculture and to the economy. They have calculated that induced twinning would increase revenue in the dairy herd by 12 per cent and in the beef herd by 60 per cent and I am prepared to take the word of these experts in this matter. The people I have spoken to in this regard have referred to such factors as twinning rates, calving problems and the management of the farm. While ostensibly these people are on a nine to five day, they are so committed to their work that they remain for many hours after 5 p.m. to work on the area of management of the farm. Their research has shown that only 50 per cent of the single-calf producing cows calve without assistance compared with 75 per cent of twin-producing cows. This shows clearly the need for proper management in agriculture and in this respect I commend very highly the work being carried on at the institute. Perhaps at a later stage we will have the opportunity of going into this area of technology in more detail. This Bill deals more with [896] the quality of the animals we are producing.

I trust that the Minister will devise some way of helping farmers in the matter of purchasing pedigree bulls. I am thinking particularly of small farmers in the west. It is because of the difficulties that are anticipated that we have had representations from such people as those involved in the Sneem Co-operative and people who have small fragmented holdings throughout the west and who perhaps experience difficulty in regard to availing of the facility of AI stations. I assure the Minister of our support in the principle he is adopting in this Bill.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  I welcome the Bill and I wish to emphasise the positive qualities that accrue as a result of control and discipline in this area. Fears have been expressed on behalf of small farmers and so on that wrong is being done and monopolies are being catered for. Generally speaking only pedigree bulls are registered. They must be proven, which means in ordinary terminology that they must be bred to carry and transmit certain characteristics. For example, a Friesian bull can carry a milk strain which means that he should father high milk producing females and the Friesian beef strain means that he will father good beef producing progeny. A mixed Friesian can father reasonably good milking heifers or reasonably good beef bullocks and is a popular choice. In the beef breeds we have Charolais, Hereford, Angus and Simmental. The Charolais and Simmental are lean, the Herefords fat and the Angus medium. These breeds give good growth rates, good quality meat and good conformation on shape.

Pedigree bulls are often progeny tested before being put into AI service. A number of their offspring are performance tested to ensure that the desired characteristics have been transmitted. Thus we know that these bulls can produce calves of the right quality, good stock that produces milk or grows into beef efficiently. That means that they [897] gain weight and come to slaughter weight in a short time. At the same time we look for Friesian cows which produce high gallonage of high quality milk annually. It is only from pedigree bulls that we get that sort of stock. Three-quarter bred or half bred are not really breeds at all. They are like mongrels or scrub bulls and that is what these people in the Sneem Co-operative, for example, are referring to. They are not really breeds, they are just mongrels and they cannot effectively transmit good characteristics. What is more likely is that they give rise to high mortality at birth due to disproportionate sizes and various other characteristics. Perhaps their hips or heads are too large. Many problems arise at birth and they are more prone to disease in the early stages of life. Then, of course, we must tolerate poor performance and poor production afterwards.

Small breeders, be they dairy men or beef men — I refer to the suppliers — have easy and cheap access to the best bulls available through the AI service. Every AI station provides a very wide range of bulls of every breed. They can pick what they want and they can even nominate a bull to service their pure bred cows and heifers and to breed from them. This is done cheaply and efficiently because thousands of insemination draws can be obtained per week from every bull, and that is economical.

We must use pedigree bulls first, to upgrade the quality of our stock and, second, to bring about more efficient production of beef and milk — and here we are running into problems with the super-levy and so on. The Danes, the French and the Belgians are getting over 1,000 gallons per cow whereas our average is 700 to 800 gallons per cow. Good breeding needs more efficient productions — in other words, getting more product for the amount of food input, and we get that only by improving the breeding. The third reason is because the survival rate at birth is better and many of these problems associated with scrubs and half breds are eliminated. Fourth, we must halt the decline in the quality of our national herd which has resulted from using scrub bulls [898] over the years. Any beef man will tell you that to get good stock is very difficult. All kind of rag bags result from mixed gatherings of cattle. Fifth, it makes good economic sense to have good quality stock when the cost involved is considered. A one and half year old or two year old heifer will cost about £400 and the cost of keeping her for a year is £100. That year covers heat detection, insemination, pregnancy which lasts for about nine months, and a short post natal period. Therefore, the total outlay is about £500, but she is not a heifer after she has had the calf and her value is down to probably about £350. Therefore, you spend about £150 to get your calf. If the cow is a Friesian then you have a good milk producing animal, but with a beef breed you are left with just a cow. You can either breed from her again or slaughter her as a cow, but she is not worth much as a heifer for that purpose. You have a calf worth £150, and after the whole process at those figures and that investment, why should you scrimp on the few pounds to get the AI service out and take top quality? You will have a better quality calf and better quality produce.

Dairy men using pedigree bulls will have heifers which when put in calf will give higher yields of milk, and the beef men will have stock which will grow quickly into beef cattle. We must upgrade the quality and efficiency of our stock by using only pedigree bulls or AI. Any other approach would seem to be economic madness. That is the main reason why I am glad to make an intervention into this debate. We want to see efficiency in the farming, dairying and beef areas as well as in the industrial and other sectors in the State.

Finally, the implementation of these measures should bring about direct control in disease eradication. Small farmers who had bulls would often let neighbours avail of the services of the bulls on the quiet when no pre-movement test for TB or brucellosis would be carried out before the stock were removed from their herds to the bull. This presented a serious risk of the spread of these diseases. [899] Accordingly, I welcome this form of progress and encourage other Members of the House to welcome this Bill.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Hegarty): Information on Patrick Hegarty  Zoom on Patrick Hegarty  I thank the Members for their interventions, which, generally speaking, were favourable to the Bill. We have this recurring difficulty of different speakers talking about specific problems and this matter probably has taken up a great deal of the time of the Animal Advisory Council also.

To recap on the debate, there is general agreement. I will go briefly through some of the main points. One thing that seems to be forgotten in the debate is that a bull licence system applied up to the end of 1982 and it proved to be very expensive to administer. As I have indicated, the inspection system at current prices costs about £160,000 annually, whereas the receipts by way of licence amount to only about £4,000. This left a net cost to the service of about £156,000 annually. On that basis the previous Government in 1982 decided to discontinue it, and indeed we in this Government endorsed that decision. With regard to other countries, France has no controls. Those who know the French scene know that breeding there has been taken to the extreme. They have been so successful in breeding their own beef breeds that anything that has been even contemplated here with regard to half-breds or three-quarter breds or whatever you like to call them — they have a new name today, we were not happy about “scrub”, we now have “mongrel” which is even more offensive to the animal——

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  (Limerick West): It was all non-pedigree.

Mr. Hegarty: Information on Patrick Hegarty  Zoom on Patrick Hegarty  In Germany under their livestock breeding Act of 1976 all bulls used for breeding purposes must be licensed by the appropriate authority in each State and non-herd book registered bulls are not eligible for licence and so cannot be used for breeding purposes. Also, in Italy only pure bred bulls are permitted [900] for breeding purposes. Each country has its own national policy.

There are several features unique to our national breeding population, for instance, considerable cross-breeding takes place in our cattle population and as was mentioned here today, this gives a good hybrid animal for beef purposes. In addition, about two-thirds of our national beef output comes from the Friesian cow population. We are unique in that, and we depend on our dairy herds to provide the raw material for beef production. The cattle sector accounts for about 80 per cent of agricultural exports and 19 per cent of our total exports. About 80 per cent of our beef output and 65 per cent of our milk output is exported and this compels us to operate our own national policy in relation to breeding. I was glad that Deputies from all sides made the point about quality. This is what the Bill is about. As was mentioned already, we are entering into an arena of keen competition. Somebody said that other countries are only looking for an excuse to get us out of the market, whether on the grounds of poor quality, use of hormones or something else. I cannot stress strongly enough that it is essential in the national interest to ensure that the quality of output from the national cattle breeding herd is capable of satisfying the demands of the market and remains competitive in the international area.

It has been suggested that the old system of inspection and licensing of herd book registered bulls should continue and that this is necessary to ensure quality. However, emerging EC legislation in the animal breeding area relating to recognition and operation of herd book societies and the entry of animals in herd books seeks to place primary responsibility for quality of herd book animals with the herd book societies rather than with the State. I agree with that approach. However, I wish to reassure the House on this point. The EC does not leave it altogether up to herd book societies. They have certain rules and regulations that have to be kept and a breed improvement [901] programme must be carried out. Recognition can be withdrawn from a society that does not meet the criteria laid down and does not have concern for the quality of animals in their herd books.

With regard to financial aids, the House will appreciate that in the prevailing budgetary situation facing the Government and the many competing demands for available resources it would not be possible to introduce any scheme to grant aid the purchase by farmers of pure bred bulls for breeding. Neither can my Department contemplate the return to a system of inspection for licences on the lines that operated under the Livestock Breeding Act, 1925. As many Deputies mentioned, any type of grant or subsidy usually ends up in the wrong pockets. It is usually added to the price of the bull and it defeats its own purpose.

The availability of pedigree bulls has been raised by a number of Deputies. The number of natural service bulls as shown by the Central Statistics Office has been in the range of 15,000 to 17,000 during the seventies and the eighties. Under the old Livestock Breeding Act, the number of bulls licensed each year during the same period varied from 5,500 to 7,500. About half these bulls were Friesian and half specialised beef breeds. There has been a steady build-up in our population of continental breed pedigree cows. The number of breeding females of our traditional beef breeds has been maintained. I estimate that we have now about 10,000 pedigree breeding females of the beef breeds and in addition we have a substantial population of pedigree Friesian cattle. Experience to date leads me to believe that ample supplies of pedigree bulls are available and will be available to meet likely demand.

The price of pedigree herd book registered bulls was raised by a number of Deputies. During the period of operation of the old Livestock Breeding Act up to January 1983 the price of herd book registered bulls was always quite reasonable. Of course individual bulls of exceptional quality occasionally make high prices and they receive much publicity. Also, average prices at élite sales of [902] selected bulls organised by breed societies tend to get publicity. However, these are the exceptions rather than the rule. I am satisfied that pedigree bulls of good quality can be purchased at reasonable prices and in many cases such prices are little more than the value of the bull for beef. I do not expect that situation to change much with the introduction of the Bill.

Doubts were expressed regarding the role of AI in beef suckler cow herds. While I accept that AI usage might be more difficult in some herds than in others, nevertheless it has been very successfully used in many small suckler herds. With a little effort AI could be used in many more such herds and would be good value for money, offering a choice of breeds of top quality at a reasonable price.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  (Limerick West): That is not true.

Mr. Hegarty: Information on Patrick Hegarty  Zoom on Patrick Hegarty  It is true. It is being done and I am aware of that fact, as is the Deputy.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  (Limerick West): Not in beef suckler cow herds.

Mr. Hegarty: Information on Patrick Hegarty  Zoom on Patrick Hegarty  More than 126,000 farmers availed of the AI service in 1973 which involved a national average of more than ten inseminations per herd. Broken down by AI centres, the average number of inseminations per herdowner ranged from 5.6 to 21.5 inseminations.

Many speakers referred to the use of the Garda in implementing this legislation. The inclusion of the Garda is standard for this type of measure. It is not the intention to use the Garda in the normal course of enforcement of the provisions of the Bill. However, experience has shown that in occasional difficult situations the support of the Garda or other enforcement officers is most desirable and for this purpose they are being given particular authority under the Bill.

Some speakers referred to the severity of the penalties laid down. Of course these are maximum amounts and it would [903] be a matter for the courts to fix the penalty in individual cases. Other speakers referred to the loss of grants in cases where an unregistered bull is detected. There is no reference in the Bill to a loss of grants for keeping an unregistered bull.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  (Limerick West): On a point of order, it is included in the regulations governing grants, whether they are EC-aided or not.

Mr. Hegarty: Information on Patrick Hegarty  Zoom on Patrick Hegarty  We hear much about the disadvantaged and severely handicapped areas. However, they are getting £32 per livestock unit on the first eight livestock units and £28 for the next 22 livestock units. This is in operation for a maximum of 30 livestock units or £872. In respect of the less disadvantaged areas, they get £32 for the first ten cows, £28 for the next 18 cows up to a maximum of 28 cows or £824.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  (Limerick West): They do not have that number of animals.

Mr. Hegarty: Information on Patrick Hegarty  Zoom on Patrick Hegarty  Well, they will get the grants. Deputy Walsh referred to our “white country” status. Our freedom from foot and mouth disease ensures access for our exports of livestock and livestock products to valuable third country markets in the USA, Canada and Japan, which markets are not open to original member states because of the existence of foot and mouth disease or because those States vaccinate against the disease. When derogations were last extended in 1983 the Commission inquired of these countries — the United States, Canada and Japan — what would their reaction be towards trade with Ireland if our import controls were changed. The Commission reported that so far as live animals were concerned trade with third countries would not be affected if Ireland applied the conditions of the directive on intra-Community trade.

In regard to fresh meat, provided a “non-comminglement” system was followed —[904] that is, a system involving the total separation at meat factories of national meat and imported meat — Ireland's trade with its third country markets would not be affected by the adoption of the conditions of the directive on intra-Community trade in meat.

I would like to refer briefly to the Cattle Advisory Committee. There seems to be some confusion about this. The Cattle Advisory Committee is representative of 14 organisations engaged in all areas of the agricultural industry. There are 18 representatives representing these 14 organisations. A lot of play has been made of the fact that none of these 18 people lives in the disadvantaged areas. I think this is irrelevant. What is important is the organisations they represent — the IFA, the ICMSA, ACOT, An Foras Talúntais, ICOS, the AI bodies, the AI Veterinary Officers' Association, CBF, the General Council of Committees of Agriculture, the Irish Meat Exporters' Association, the Irish livestock trade, University College Dublin, Faculty of Agriculture, the Pedigree Breeders' Council and the Department of Agriculture. If these bodies are not representative of the Irish cattle industry I do not know who is. I should add that the people are nominated by the organisations; they are not picked by the Minister for Agriculture, and we have no intention of getting involved in that area.

This Bill should not be viewed in isolation. It should be seen as one of the elements of the national beef breeding programme which also includes on-farm recording in pedigree herds, central performance testing and progeny testing of AI bulls. The expenditure by the Exchequer in all these elements is of the order of £1 million annually. As I said, the emphasis is on quality. I do not accept the criticism of the breeders society or the advisory committee. Over the years good breeding has proved to be the only way forward. When people start talking hybrids they do not know what they are talking about, nor does anybody else. As many speakers said, we should be looking ahead, not backwards. The people with whom we are in competition are already [905] using embryo transplants for twinning. I agree with Deputy Kitt when he mentioned the work being done in Belclare. That is the way ahead. If we are to stay in that market we have to look forward to better breeding and better cattle so that our vac-pack meat can compete with that produced by the Germans and the British. This is a very tough market. We are now talking about meat going into intervention and only quality meat will go into intervention. The whole scene is changing and we have to be ready to meet that situation.

I have no hesitation in recommending this Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?

Mr. Hegarty: Information on Patrick Hegarty  Zoom on Patrick Hegarty  Next Wednesday.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  (Limerick West): I would prefer to have two weeks——

Mr. Hegarty: Information on Patrick Hegarty  Zoom on Patrick Hegarty  That is for the Whips to decide.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 13 March 1985.


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