Expansion of European herds will hit prices
A concern for the Irish beef sector is the increase in the European cow herd. It has increased by 500,000 cows since 2012 to 32 million overall.
While this masks a 250,000 head decline in suckler cow numbers, the extra 750,000 dairy cows on EU dairy farms compared to three years ago will result in more beef on the Continent.
This has already started to happen, with European beef production up by close to 3pc in 2015.
There were higher numbers of dairy bred calves reared for beef, along with a greater volume of cow beef in many markets, where the difficult dairy market encouraged farmers to be more rigid in culling the less-productive cows from their herds.
France, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland have experienced higher cattle supplies, while Ireland and the UK are among the only countries with lower volumes. For 2016, a further increase of 0.8pc in European beef volumes has been forecast.
The 83,000 head decline in Irish slaughterings during 2015 was mainly the result of a 15pc decline in young bull production, coupled with a 12pc fall in cull cow supplies.
The most recent analysis by the Department of Agriculture's Animal Identification and Movement database suggests that over the spring months prime cattle availability will remain broadly similar to last year.