Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Beef the only grey cloud in bright outlook

Declan O'Brien

Published 28/09/2010 | 05:00

What a difference a year makes. There was certainly far more optimism around the National Ploughing Championships last week than there has been for a while.

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A significant lift in milk prices, a surprising turn for the better on the tillage front and the strongest margins from sheep for some time all contributed to a very positive outlook.

The one fly in the ointment was the beef scene, although matters on this front may be looking a little more hopeful.

The decision by AIBP to offer contracts for finishers will certainly put more confidence into the trade.

However, finishers have insisted that the base price of 330c/kg being offered for steers and 336-342c/kg for heifers may be 10-15c/kg off where it needs to be.

Speaking at the Farming Independent stand in Athy, Rory Fanning, managing director of Slaney Foods, said the autumn beef price to the farmer should have bottomed out.

Mr Fanning said that overall export markets remained firm but that a weakening of sterling was not helpful. He urged farmers not to slaughter cattle that were unfinished. He foresaw prices rising as winter progressed, but could not say by how much.

However, the Slaney boss was not planning to enter into contracts with winter feeders to supply cattle for spring 2011.

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On the issue of the Quality Payment System (QPS), Mr Fanning argued that this was the correct path to take.

The QPS was certainly a hot issue at the Ploughing. Close to half of the 424 drystock farmers questioned for the Farming Independent survey expressed dissatisfaction with the payment regime.

Just 3pc classed the QPS as very fair, while 26pc said it was fair. In contrast, 28pc said the QPS was unfair, with a further 20pc maintaining it was very unfair. Some 23pc said the payment system was 'neither fair nor unfair'.

Clearly opposition to the QPS cannot be dismissed as solely a dairy farmer issue. The grid was designed to reward those who specialised in producing beef. But this survey proves that this cohort has yet to be won over.

The view repeated time and again at the Ploughing was that farmes could not value their stock and that the grid was too complicated. While the vast majority of farmers accepted that producers of quality beef stock deserved a premium price, they questioned why such a complex system was required to deliver such a bonus.

It would be a mistake to underestimate the level of frustration felt by farmers on this issue.

It is said in public relations parlance that 'when you're explaining you're losing', but that view needs to be set aside in this instance.

Irish Independent