The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has rebuffed claims that 45,000 dairy cattle in Northern Ireland could be culled in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Earlier this week, the BBC reported ‘senior industry figures’ had warned a cull may become necessary if Northern Irish milk could no longer be processed across the border in the Republic of Ireland.
At the moment, almost a third of all the milk produced in Northern Ireland is exported to the Republic for processing, but the introduction of tariffs, customs checks and the possibility of regulatory divergence after a no-deal Brexit could affect this flow.
UFU president Ivor Ferguson warned these new checks would be ‘catastrophic’ for Northern Irish farmers, though he dismissed the idea of a widespread cull of dairy cattle.
He said: “At this point in time, we are not even talking about a large cull of animals and we do not anticipate we will get to this point.
“In the event of no deal, the dairy industry will find ways to cope if there is a surplus of milk, although it is not likely to be straightforward and we would expect disruption.
“Possibly there is capacity in our local processing sector to absorb any extra milk, or we may be able to send it to Great Britain.
“There will be other options and it is irresponsible to jump straight to culling cows as a solution.”
Mr Ferguson also and called for Government to support the farming sector as the UK leaves the EU.
“Reciprocal tariffs and deficiency payments to farm businesses to help address farmgate price collapse are starting points, and at the moment, the most reasonable options,” he said.
“However, we continue to actively lobby politicians and the Government so they understand the seriousness of a no-deal situation and the importance of avoiding it.”