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Why beef from Irish Shorthorns is proving a big hit in Belgium


Shorthorn bull Doon Gladiator, bred by John Clarke, Roscommon

Shorthorn bull Doon Gladiator, bred by John Clarke, Roscommon

Shorthorn bull Doon Gladiator, bred by John Clarke, Roscommon

A NICHE market for Shorthorn beef in Belgium is returning a premium to producers of the traditional Irish breed.

Supplies for the market are being sourced by the Shorthorn Marketing Company, which has been formed in association with the Irish Shorthorn Cattle Society, and processed for export by the ABP Group at their factories at Clones and Nenagh.

The newly formed marketing company is being managed by John Clarke, a shorthorn breeder at Strokestown, Co Roscommon and treasurer of the Irish Shorthorn Cattle Society.

He said that the market is open for “all we can get” of steers and heifers and is returning a premium of 15c/kg to producers on the base beef price “all year round” for shorthorns slaughtered under 30 months with passports showing the animals as SH or SHX.

“Supplies are scarce and presently we are only in a position to source an average of 10 animals per week on an all-year-round basis but we are working on growing that supply because there is a market there for all we can get,” he said.

The premium of 15c/kg is payable on an extended range of grades, to include all U and R grades, with fat scores from 2+ to 4=, as well as O+ and O= within the same fat score range. Suppliers must be Bord Bia Quality Assured and supply animals of carcase weights within 230kg and 380kg.

The recently established niche market for beef from the breed has given a boost to the traditional Irish dual-purpose breed, which was the dominant breed on Irish livestock farms in the 1940s and ’50s, before becoming heavily depleted following the introduction of several continental breeds from the ’60s onwards.

“There is a strong recovery in interest in the breed, because they have a lot of advantages to offer in docility and suitability to Irish farming conditions, and demand for beef at a premium price is now boosting interest. Currently we have more than 60 producers registered to supply animals,” said Mr Clarke.

Special sales for Shorthorn, organised by the marketing company, are scheduled for Castleisland, Kilmallock, Kingscourt and Kanturk marts over the coming weeks, with regional clubs also scheduling special sales in October. The Irish Shorthorn Society will hold a Society Premier Sale at Roscommon on November 11.

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