Cattle men deserve to enjoy their time in sun
The cattle industry is on a high as the National Ploughing Championships get under way in Athy today. Everyone along the chain from suckler farmers to finishers has benefited from a dramatic lift in cattle prices over the past 12 months.
Finished cattle prices in September are running around 18pc higher than the same month last year, equating to a price increase of 50c/kg.
These factory prices have filtered down the chain as farmers leave the factories with bigger cheques in their pockets, resulting in higher weanling and store prices in the marts.
The increase has been driven, in the main, by a reduced supply of cattle as a result of the effects of the strong live export trade last year and in 2009. Some 340,000hd of cattle left Irish shores last year, on top of the 240,000hd exported in 2009. The result is a scarcity of prime cattle in the 18-24 months age bracket.
For the immediate future, price prospects look good. Our nearest and biggest market for beef, Britain, has estimated that its own cattle supplies will be 8pc lower for the first half of 2012 than they were in the early part of this year.
The Continental trade, too, looks positive. Exports of beef, live cattle and offal out of Europe have risen this year due to higher world beef prices.
However, the flip side of the strong cattle trade in Ireland this year has been a dramatic fall off in the number of cattle exported.
The latest Bord Bia figures show that live exports have fallen by 108,000hd when compared to last year.