Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

Nolan urges caution on farmer switch from steer beef to bulls

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The growing switch by farmers from steers to bulls is undermining a key selling point for Irish beef, a leading industry official has claimed.

Paul Nolan, group development manager with Dawn Meats, said Ireland had carved out traditional markets such as those in Germany and Britain on the reputation of its grass-fed steer beef.

But he warned that this "unique selling point" for Irish beef was being compromised by the switch to bull beef.

Mr Nolan was addressing an agriculture seminar in Carrick-on-Shannon that was jointly hosted by the Agricultural Science Association (ASA) and Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA), and sponsored by Ulster Bank.

The latest figures from the Department of Agriculture show that the bull kill is running at nearly one-to-one with the steer kill this year.

Mr Nolan accepted that many farmers were attracted by the higher weight gain efficiencies of bull beef and the fact that the animals could be finished at a younger age than steers.


However, he maintained that bull beef had its limitations and argued that just as good a living could be secured from finishing steers if they were done properly.

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Mr Nolan ruled out the possibility of a premium being paid for steers but maintained there would be a 30c/kg differential between steers and bulls if cattle supplies were not as tight as they are at the moment.

He said that the bigger forequarters on bulls meant that a lower percentage of the total carcass was made up of prime cuts.

In addition, he said strip loins from a lot of bulls were now too big.

Mr Nolan welcomed the introduction of the Beef Discussion Group Scheme.

He said the structure of the scheme and the list of measures required from applicants meant that only genuine beef farmers were likely to apply to become part of it.

"At least fellows are not being told to join for the €1,000," said Mr Nolan.

"The structure of the scheme means that the 'tyre kickers' will be weeded out and you should end up with farmers who want to learn and to learn from each other."

Declan O'Brien

Indo Farming