Beef and suckler farmers are seeking urgent, direct support from the government to head off a costs crisis that could force some of them out of business, the IFA livestock chairman has warned.

Brendan Golden said farmers are simply not getting the prices they need from factories to survive and the “maths do not add up”.

“What we’re seeing at the moment is that the factories are cutting prices every week and the question farmers are asking themselves is where is the price going? We know that prices in the UK and the European Union (EU) have strengthened but that is not following through to farmers.”

“Margins are crumbling and the fact is that if cattle finishers cannot meet the cost of production, if they can’t afford to feed cattle then they can’t keep going. There is a point of no return.”

Golden said that the latest Prime Export Benchmark price is 27c/kg ahead of the Prime Irish composite price.

He is urging factories to pay farmers prices that reflect the the strength of the market and outlined that in some instances there is up to 10c/kg of a difference between quoted and paid prices.

“We need minimum price guarantees for winter finishers from factories and we need prices that reflect the cost of feeding cattle and other production costs. Beef finishers cannot be expected to make significant investment without any indicator of what the return will be.”

The IFA livestock chairman said retailers also have a role to play in supporting Irish farmers.

“We know that rising costs are impacting on consumers and we are sympathetic to this but food has to be supplied a price that is sustainable. What are the retailers doing? They have a big part to play here too,” Golden added.

He believes the reality of the current situation may make some suckler and beef farmers reconsider their options in the short-term.

“When feeders lose money on one batch of cattle then its reasonable to think they may not be so keen to try again. What we need is direct support from government to protect suckler and beef farmers,” Golden said.

The IFA has called for direct supports for suckler cows to be built to €300 a cow and €100 rearing and finishing payment for beef farmers and supports towards the cost of meal .

According to the association since 2018, there has been a 12% reduction in suckler cow numbers, leading to a reduction of over 20% in suckler beef production.

Golden said that government must acknowledge that farmers are separately also facing significant challenges in relation to climate change and emissions.

He said political leaders cannot on one hand expect farmers to embrace the challenges that lie ahead particularly on the climate front without providing direct support to them.

“We are fully conscious that farming must play its part and we will.”