The majority of beef farmers are optimistic about the future, with 38% planning to make farm investments over the next three years, a new report on the beef industry has found.

The report by AIB and the IFA states that the positive outlook among farmers and the industry is partly due to new market opportunities and Ireland’s reputation as a quality and sustainable producer of beef.

Overall, it states that 70% of beef farmers identified definite opportunities for themselves and the industry.

The rising world population and increasing demand for beef are the key factors impacting on the global beef market but at farm level farmers are firmly focused on the price that they receive for beef and they believe that new markets have the potential to benefit them (37%) and the wider industry by way of increased prices (16%).

However, despite the optimism, fluctuating cattle prices (25%), profitability (18%) and rising input costs (13%) are among the principal challenges identified at farm level.

Six in 10 (59%) expect a reduction in payment under the Basic Payment Scheme. Most farmers (92%) have introduced measures in the past three years to address the challenges (improved grassland management (75%), joined quality assurance scheme (49%), enlisted advisor/consultant (43%)), with two-thirds (66%) planning to introduce further measures in the next three years to address the perceived challenges to their business, primarily involving grassland management, increased stock numbers, and joining the Bord Bia Quality Assurance scheme.

Other key findings of the report include that 70% identify eProfit Monitor/Cost Control Planner as the most beneficial farm management practice but only 27% actually complete it.

Mart and large processors are the main market outlet for farmers, it says, while sale price and margin per head/hectare are the most popular measures of performance.