Beef farms continue decline
The decline of the suckler herd is set to continue, with the number of beef cattle farms set to fall from 100,000 to 90,000 as we move towards 2018, according to the Teagasc roadmap for suckler beef.
The number of suckler beef cows in the country is expected to continue to fall by around 14,000hd/year between now and 2018, while the demand for land for energy crop production and dairy herd expansion will compete with that for suckler beef production in the future.
However, a move towards bull beef systems is expected to increase output and efficiencies in the suckler beef sector in the coming years, while Teagasc also predicts that production of quality weanlings for live export to the Italian market from the suckler herd will be a profitable option for specialist producers.
The most efficient suckler calf-to-steer beef producers finishing males as steers can expect to achieve a gross margin of €800/ha by 2018.
Meanwhile, the national sheep flock is expected to reverse the trend of falling ewe numbers in recent years, according to Teagasc.
The national flock, currently 2.2 million ewes, has been contracting annually since 1992 but it is expected that the flock size will increase slightly between now and 2018.
However, the number of sheep flocks is projected to fall from 32,232 in 2009 to around 30,000 in 2018, which points to a small increase in the average size of individual flocks. Nonetheless, the proportion of flocks exceeding 150 sheep is not projected to change dramatically between now and 2018.