Cattle grades slide is the legacy of fodder crisis and fall in live exports
The legacy of last spring's fodder crisis coupled with a huge increase in the number of Friesian steers being brought to slaughter has resulted in a sharp decline in the grading results for prime cattle.
There was a 72pc increase in P-grade steers during the first half of 2013 compared to the same period last year, according to Department of Agriculture figures. At the same time, the number of steers hitting R-grade dropped by 17pc.
The pattern eased only slightly during the third quarter of the year, when P grade steers were 60pc higher than 2012 and R-grade steers were 15pc lower.
The increase in P-grade steers resulted in over 14,000 extra steers being classified in the lowest grade in the first nine months of 2013.
A 6pc increase in O-grades combined with the decrease in R-grade stock suggests that approximately 7,900 steers moved from R-grade down to O-grade during the same period.
The slide in grade scores represents a loss of over €2m for farmers.
This calculation is based on the average reported price in August for O-grade cattle being 21c/kg lower than R-grade, and a 30c/kg gap between O- and P-grade cattle.
This equates to a loss of almost €90 for the 22,400 animals involved.