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Opinion: Nobody is going to spend a fortune finishing cattle on nuts

Chairperson of ICMSA’s livestock committee, Des Morrison, shares his thoughts on beef prices and finishing.

I expect farmer beef prices to move upwards substantially towards par with European Benchmark, which are currently lagging significantly.

Predicting that the high prices will continue into 2023, many finishers are wary of soaring input costs to finish animals in early spring and will be looking to finish them later on grass later.

Factories had better be prepared to pay premium rates if they wanted animals in February, March and even through to May.

Nobody is going to spend a fortune finishing cattle on nuts and then bring them in to get a derisory price from the factories.

We think that farmers are going to hold off until possibly April and finish them on grass.

Beef prices

The average reported Irish R3 steer price as of a fortnight ago was €4.52/kg excluding VAT, which was down 27c/kg from mid-September 6.

The UK equivalent was making €5.11 The EU price for young bulls increased 7c/kg from €4.99/kg to €5.06/kg excluding VAT, whilst the UK steer price increased 5c/kg from €5.07/kg to €5.12/kg ex VAT.

As is by now customary, Ireland is yet again the exception where our prices have fallen.

Every market we sell into or bear any comparison to has rising prices, but our factories have cut the price they pay us.

Every enquiry and review into our beef sector just comes up against this mystery where our beef prices seem to be deliberately disconnected from everyone else’s – even the markets that we sell into – and we want to know why?

We have so many of these ‘Vision’, and ‘Forum’ reports that set out to look at the underlying problems in our beef sector and always seem to start and finish with what farmers must do – or must be made to do.

In the meantime, we have glaring anomalies around the prices paid by factories that are never addressed – much less answered.

This coming spring might well be the ‘wake-up’ call that our beef factories need.

They are going to have to get their prices up to a level that gives farmers a margin after their inputs.

It is going to take a lot for farmers to believe the factories will do that because we have been burned by them so many times before.

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