Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

'Think twice before you squeeze,' the ICSA advises

Herd of Blue-gray crossbred steers. White Shorthorn X Galloway.
Herd of Blue-gray crossbred steers. White Shorthorn X Galloway.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The ICSA has urged suckler farmers to think twice before they castrate weanlings this year.

Suckler chairman Dermot Kelleher said that the live trade was geared towards bulls, even though farmers are being told by the meat processors that bull beef is not wanted.

"Castration may be an option for some cattle that are not suited for live exports, but top quality continental breed cattle are best left entire in my view. The Italian market for beef is improved compared to last year and farmers need to ensure that the live export trade is viable," he said.

The ICSA's comments come in a week when beef prices have fallen further, with steers and heifers back by 5c/kg and cows back 10c/kg. Market demand has been sluggish right across the board in both Britain and on the continent.

Prices for R grade steers in Britain have fallen by 40c/kg since the start of the year, with the gap between Irish and British stock almost halved to 35c/kg in recent weeks.

The price falls are approximately one month earlier than usual, according to Bord Bia's beef analyst Joe Burke.

"Normally, we'd be expecting prices to hold for another month, so you'd have to be worried about these developments," he said.

Britain accounts for more than 50pc of our beef exports, with premium steer and heifer contracts particularly reliant on British outlets.

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Mr Burke said demand across Europe was weaker than expected, with R grade bulls also back by 15c/kg on the continent.

"Consumption hasn't dropped much compared to this time last year, but bear in mind that we are comparing to a time post-horsemeat when a lot of beef consumption was taking a hammering," he said.

Irish prices are likely to remain under pressure over the coming weeks as supplies remain significantly stronger than 12 months previously.

The weekly kill is now at close to 33,000, up over 6,000 or almost 20pc on the same week last year. So far in 2014, an additional 72,000hd of stock have been slaughtered.

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