ICSA Beef chair Edmund Graham has said it is now clear there is no incentive for farmers to finish cattle earlier given how stagnant beef prices have remained over the last several months. “Back in mid-December we were getting €5.10/kg for heifers and €5/kg for steers, but we haven’t seen nearly enough upwards movement since then, and certainly not enough to have finished cattle earlier over the winter months,” he said.
“Throughput numbers are down on where they were this time last year and many factories have cut back to a four-day week – but market demand for beef remains strong. This should add up to farmers achieving a fairer price but that is not what we are seeing. Cattle prices have been languishing around the €5.20-€5.30 for months now despite repeated assurances that prices would increase significantly in early spring to offset inflated winter-feeding costs.
Conservative estimates by Teagasc said prices would have needed to be at the €6/kg level by early spring to cover the basic costs of production but we haven’t come even close to that. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that any extra money spent on trying to finish cattle earlier would have been money down the drain.”
Mr Graham said had farmers taken the decision last September to invest in finishing cattle earlier for the springtime they would have been badly stung. “Finishing cattle earlier is not cost neutral – it costs money. it is an investment to commit to additional feeding and it’s a bad investment if farmers cannot achieve the price they need to justify the outlay.”
“It is time for factories and the Department to engage in a real debate with primary producers on how they are going to provide sustainable prices for winter finishers or any farmer considering finishing cattle earlier. Environmental sustainability cannot be achieved by ignoring economic sustainability considerations.”