Low grading cattle numbers double
The supply of poorly finished beef animals to the factories doubled to unprecedented levels for the first half of 2013, resulting in a loss of at least €3.5m to farmers.
The scarcity of quality feed supplies last winter resulted in over 20pc of over 200,000 bullocks being consigned to the lowest paying fat scores. Fat score 2 bullocks make 15c/kg less than the base price, while the fat score 1 steer price averaged 97c/kg less than base according to Department of Agriculture data.
Fat score 2 heifers averaged 19c/kg less than the base, while fat score 1 heifers averaged 116c/kg less.
The penalty for poor grading animals was significantly increased under the introduction of the Quality Pricing System in 2009 to encourage production of higher quality animals.
The number of steers and heifers with low fat scores of 1 and 2 increased by almost 35,000 for the six months to the end of June, while there was a 74pc increase in poor quality P-grade steers. Heifers faired slightly better, with a 46pc increase in the same period.
The factory data showed a 250pc increase in fat score 1 steers, while fat score 2 steers were 95pc higher compared to the first half of 2012. The corresponding figures for heifers were 214pc and 82pc. There was a mirror fall in the higher fat scores with 5's down by 54pc in steers and 37pc in heifers.
Conformation of both steers and heifers also deteriorated. There was a drop of 17pc in R-grade steers, while R-grade heifers were lower by 7pc.