ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan has said that there is an emerging crisis of confidence in the beef sector, particularly linked to the increasing difficulty in getting young bulls slaughtered.
“The focus of the anger is not just about the fact that beef price is showing no signs of improvement, it is about the apparent lack of interest in cattle. Finishers who have specialised in young bulls are getting the signal that they are not wanted but this poses a real problem for quality cattle coming from the suckler herd.”
“The meat industry has been messing around for a while now saying that they want young bulls slaughtered at under 16 months. The reality is that heavy continental weanlings cannot be economically finished at that age given the cost of feed inputs on Irish farms and allowing for the fact that our strength is growing grass. Teagasc research confirms that 16 month bull beef is not economical. Farmers with bulls are discovering that there is just no point in buying them if there is this ongoing doubt about what is wanted. What is really frustrating is that factories forget all this as soon as beef gets scarce.”
“Irish finishers are vitally important to the suckler herd especially as the export of weanlings has slipped in the past two years and the signs are not that positive for 2014. However, finishers are getting very pessimistic about what to buy given the unrealistic talk of 16 month bull beef, coupled with ongoing frustration over the completely arbitrary 30 month limit for steers and heifers.”
“We are now into the high cost winter finishing period and farmers need a price rise now for shed cattle. Traditionally, cattle price strengthened coming up to Christmas and into the New Year as cattle got scarce and demand was steady. With no signs of this happening, there is now a real crisis of confidence and it makes any talk of increased output under Food Harvest 2020 look very foolish.”