In the last few days of January, only a short few weeks ago, beef price started to move upwards again after sitting relatively steady for 5-6 weeks at approximately €4.25/kg for steers and €4.30/kg for heifers.

Fast forward the clock 11 weeks and prime cattle as well as cows and under-24 month bulls have moved on 55-60c/kg. Movement like that hasn’t been seen in the beef trade for quite some time.

Many farmers will be quick to point out that in that time, input costs have also drastically increased with the three Fs (Feed, Fuel and Fertiliser) all increasing considerably in price.

It should also be pointed out that Irish beef prices are running 40c/kg behind the EU average, according to Bord Bia’s most recent Cattle Price Dashboard update (March 26).

While rising input costs will leave many farmers little to no better off, it cannot be denied the rise in beef price has been substantial.

Phrases such as ‘it can’t last’, ‘it won’t last’ and ‘the bubble will burst yet’ are often heard from in conversations with beef farmers over the past few weeks, however, conversations with factory agents, procurement staff and those working in the processing side of the industry would appear more positive.

Factory agents and players from the processing side of the cattle trade are generally first to pour cold water on a strong cattle trade, however, currently this is not the case and market indications look fairly positive for the Irish beef trade – for the medium term at least.

After a number of very tough years for the cattle trade, a rise in beef price can only be welcomed by beef farmers – even though the input costs are taking a lot, if not all, the good out of it.

While markets seem positive and the coast seems clear for beef price in the coming 4-5 months, seasoned cattle buyers will know that the cattle trade was always somewhat of a mystery and what you expect will happen doesn’t always happen.

In the meantime, all that beef farmers can do is make the best of the situation on hand and minimise exposure in the unlikely event of ‘the bubble bursting’ in the coming few months.