A blunt warning was sent out to farmers considering finishing heavy bulls at a recent Irish Grassland beef tour in Longford.

Kepak Procurement Manager Jonathan Forbes told farmers that those who are considering finishing heavy bulls are playing a ‘risky’ game.

He noted the 33% reduction in the bull kill to date this year versus last year and said the reasons for this could be traced back to 2014.

“We had issues last year marketing these animals. Producers with over 16-month bulls and producers with heavy bulls, and most importantly did not have direct agreement with a local plant , had a serious issue in getting them marketed,” he said.

One of the main difficulties in marketing beef from young bulls of more than 16 months of age last year was that those animals are deemed ‘out of spec’ as far as the key retail markets is concerned and therefore were unable to be sold to our optimum outlets in UK and EU retailers.

UK market accounted for 49% of Irish beef exports in 2014. Much of that volume and in particular the high value Loin cuts was purchased by retail customers. These supermarket groups have stringent specification requirements with regard to the age and weight of beef that they buy.

Looking at 2015 and into 2016, Forbes had this warning for beef farmers:

“You’re playing the roulette wheel if you want to go feeding heavy bulls without having some understanding of where you plan to slaughter and market these cattle.

“You should ascertain with your local factory rep that they have an outlet for these animals , agree target specifications and a programme for supply in order to ensure a positive outcome and forge closer relationships.”

Forbes stressed that Kepak’s market is under 400k and that the retail specification for bulls is under 16 months.