Farm Ireland

Monday 18 December 2017

Lots to chew over as beef production keeps falling

A massive drop in calf births combined with record growth in live exports could see Irish beef output plunge 300,000 head by 2012 -- which will have serious implications for the entire sector

Bord Bia price statistics show that Irish processors have reduced Irish prime beef prices
Bord Bia price statistics show that Irish processors have reduced Irish prime beef prices
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Our national output of beef is set to plummet over the next two years. Latest figures from Bord Bia show that Ireland is facing a situation where the number of finished beef stock is set to drop by up to 300,000hd by 2012.

This unprecedented fall will have major implications for the whole of the beef sector. Farmers will hope that it will drive up prices as factories compete for ever scarcer stock to fill their contracts.

And all the indications from the global beef market are that conditions are favourable for a price increase over the coming months and years.

Bord Bia's Joe Burke presented the figures to a packed IFA meeting for winter finishers in Portloaise last week. He showed how the convergence of a number of trends has the potential to force the biggest ever contraction in the Irish beef industry.

Decreasing calf births

Since Irish agriculture was decoupled from the raft of EU farm payments in 2003, there has been a gradual, but hugely significant, decline in the calf registrations. In 2004, 2.17m calves were registered in Ireland. However, this figure has fallen by 135,000hd since then.

Increasing live exports

Live exports have grown to record levels in the past number of years as farmers look for an alternative to the poor prices offered by the meat factories for finished stock. The number of cattle sold 'on the hoof' has more than doubled since 2008, to the point where it's expected that 380,000 finished cattle, stores, weanlings and calves will be shipped live this year. This will have a large knock-on effect for the numbers available here for slaughter and processing over the next two years.

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As a result, it looks likely that there will be 150,000 fewer cattle slaughtered here next year.

Mr Burke predicted that finished cattle supplies in 2012 were likely to be a further 100,000hd down on next year's figure. However, he didn't rule out the possibility that the drop could be as big as 150,000hd for the second year on the trot.

Irish Independent

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