Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Weather hits cattle supplies

Last year live exports fell by 25,000.
Last year live exports fell by 25,000.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Tighter cattle supplies are expected at the factory gates over the next few months as the poor weather takes a toll, according to a beef expert.

Bord Bia analyst Joe Burke pointed to good growing conditions last year playing a part in the high numbers of cattle being slaughtered last autumn.

"There are likely to be fewer cattle available for the next two to three months," said Mr Burke who was addressing farmers at a livestock seminar organised by Quinns in Co Wicklow.

"On the cattle supply side it is likely the numbers will be that bit lighter and that is going to contribute to a bit more competition among the beef plants for the available supply."

However, he pointed out an additional 60,000 to 80,000 head of cattle were expected to be slaughtered this year - with a rise of 16,000 so far.

Last year live exports fell by 25,000 to 178,000hd with both higher prices in Ireland making it uncompetitive and the impact of the loss of the important Libyan market.

Mr Burke pointed out the Egyptian market had reopened in recent weeks, which presented opportunities but Irish prices were not currently at a level to make the exports viable.

"But you'd be optimistic that it will keep a floor on the market and exporters will be looking at it as a viable option later on in the year perhaps when cattle numbers are higher and maybe if cattle prices decline somewhat," he said.

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However, he signalled that the recently opened market in Turkey would be a "strong customer" and able to "pay high prices", however, it was for a defined category of stock including beef breeds under 12 months and under 300kg.

"Some of the exports have been strong for the likes of the calf markets, with exports to Spain up 16pc, exports to Netherlands back slightly, but you would be optimistic," he said.

Mr Burke said it was a difficult time of year for exporting weanlings or store cattle as Irish buyers were strong. "Store buyers and buyers of young light cattle are particularly optimistic as indeed was the case last year as well too," he said.

He also highlighted the emergence of Poland as a "major player" in beef exports.

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