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Like the politicians, beef farmers must decide if radical changes are needed

Margaret Donnelly


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Photo Brian Farrell

Photo Brian Farrell

Photo Brian Farrell

We'll leave the country's politicians continue to grapple with the political landscape and new horizon as talks begin around forming a new government. It won't be an easy task for any side and tough decisions will have to be made by some to sacrifice political promises for power and glory, while others may decide that principles are more important.

Farmers and the population of rural Ireland have not deserted the main parties as other constituents have in their droves, but some have to ask themselves some serious questions at this point.

The price of cattle in marts makes no sense and anyone paying what can only be described as exorbitant prices needs to stop and ask themselves, 'will I be rewarded?'

Farmers may not be in farming to make money, but it's clear as day that the prices being paid for cattle in marts - no matter how much grass there is at the moment or due to grow over the coming weeks - will leave many farmers burnt by the factories when they go to sell such cattle later this year.

Prices of €1,300 now for bullocks would have to see the same cattle fetch in the region of €1,800 at the factory door. Does anyone paying these prices really think they can achieve this? €4.20kg+ and that's just to cover your costs.

We're all optimists, with farmers leading the pack on that, but quite clearly some are setting themselves up for a serious fall. We've been through a number of years of poor beef prices, but beef finishers need to stop and ask themselves if this policy of 'eternal hope' should continue.

I recently spoke to two farmers on both sides of this bull market. The seller, a suckler farmer said he needs all he's getting and more for his business to be sustainable, while the buyer said he has no chance of squeezing a margin out of cattle at these prices. For the beef industry to work, all parts of the chain need their fair share. Unfortunately, as was demonstrated in 2019, deciding what's fair is a complex and divisive business.

So, as a new government sorts itself out in the coming days and weeks, beef farmers need to look at the reality facing them - continue to operate in the volatile market that is the cattle business or think about investing in a different farming future.

And that does not mean failure, it simply means questioning the status quo and figuring out if it serves you best.

Indo Farming