Coping with the challenge of cattle finishing
Partnerships offer a way to better stock
The recent increase in the cost of concentrates, due mainly to higher cereal prices, could be the last financial straw for traditional cattle producers, but on the bright side, EU beef consumption (left) is holding up well
Over the past three years, farmers feeding cattle over the winter to service Irish meat factories have consistently lost money or have endured extremely low margins when allowance was made for the labour, housing costs and management time.
It is obvious that strong cattle prices are essential to profitability in the beef and livestock sector. Prices so far this year are 3pc below last year's levels and, at the current level of €3.05/kg, are 15-40c/kg below current EU prices.
Store prices are up on last year's levels by around five or six percent. While this is welcome for the store producer, it does again narrow the opportunity to create a margin from winter finishing.
So far this year, slaughterings are 13pc ahead of last year's levels. Live exports are also up 70,000hd on last year, at 256,000hd up to July 31. Dairy farmers are also retaining more heifers for breeding and using more dairy breeds, so there will be serious supply problems for the industry in the future.
Beef production is extremely valuable to the Irish economy, with an export value of €1.4bn last year and more than 90pc exported to the high-value EU markets. Irish beef is renowned worldwide for its quality and is produced to the highest food-safety standards. Our national herd at the June 2008 census was 6.7m head. Our modern and innovative processing sector accounts for annual slaughterings of around 1.7m head.
Ireland is the largest exporter of beef in Europe and the fourth largest in the world.
The recent increase in the cost of concentrates, due mainly to higher cereal prices, could be the last financial straw for traditional cattle producers. So, how can this important export industry cope with these challenges at a higher level than prevailed last year?