A tightening of cattle numbers is likely to keep a decent floor in the beef market for the rest of 2015, according to Bord Bia’s Joe Burke.

“Factory quotes for prime beef animals and cull cows have strengthened significantly over the past six to eight weeks,” he said.

“Consumer demand for beef in the UK and Irish markets is improving at the present time. But it is the shortage in cattle numbers that is the real driver in pushing farmgate prices forward.

“The latest figures confirm that slaughterings are down 40,000 head for the first six months of 2015, compared with the same period of the previous year. And our estimates are pointing to a 100,000 year-on-year drop-off in processing numbers come the end of 2015.”

Burke said that the factories’ long-term supply contracts with supermarkets and other UK outlets should ensure a high level of competition for cattle between processors over the coming months.

“It’s a numbers’ game,” he said.

“The only fly in the ointment is the significant tonnages of cheaper bull beef coming onto the mainland EU market at the present time. In contrast to the UK and Ireland, beef consumption in this region is falling.”

Burke indicated that the suspected BSE case, currently being investigated, should not impact on Ireland’s beef exporting opportunities, even if confirmed as a positive.

“BSE cases have been regularly confirmed in a number of EU Member States over recent years, including France and Germany,” he said.

“These are regarded as part of the ongoing international campaign to eradicate the disease. What truly stands out in Ireland’s favour is the fact that the animal in question was identified as a result of the national BSE surveillance measures in place.

“I can confirm that buyers of Irish beef in countries around the world have taken a very realistic perspective on this matter and are not in any way alarmed.”