More than 150 people attended Bord Bia‘s Meat Market Prospects Seminar in Dublin last Friday. Among the highlights were an update on cattle supply numbers, a report on Ireland’s export markets and news from its sustainability programmes.

The seminar heard that Ireland’s meat and livestock exports hit a record-breaking €3.3bn last year, an increase of eight per cent.  Jim O’Toole of Bord Bia explained that its Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme (BLQAS) now has 41,000 members, with 38,600 participating beef farms and 11,5000 sheep farms. In total some 29,600 audits were completed in 2013, with a 166 per cent increase in new members.

According to O’Toole, 87 per cent of beef and lamb production in Ireland is now coming from the BLQAS scheme.

The conference also heard that cattle supplied in 2013 increased by seven per cent, calf exports increased by 137 per cent, at 90,658 head, weanlings and stores were up three per cent to 70,430hd and finished cattle 9.5 per cent at 48,393hd. Bord Bia now forecasts cattle supply to increased by 80-120,000 extra finished cattle available in 2014.

In his update, Bord Bia’s Joe Burke noted calf registrations decreased by 2.5 per cent, in particular calf registrations to suckler cows decreased by eight per cent.  He cautioned that longer-term supplies were uncertain in this sector.

In terms of the performance of Irish cattle prices during 2013, Burke said Irish prices rose strongly up to mid year, before falling to the EU average. For the week 28 December, Irish price was €3.89/kg, the EU average was €3.85/kg and the UK was €4.56/kg.

Padraig Brennan, also of Bord Bia, spoke Ireland’s sustainability credentials. To date 50,000 assessments in its beef sustainability programme has taken place. Brennan explained that significant variation was evident on farms in terms of carbon footprint results. Bord Bia now plans to expand its carbon footprinting programme to the poultry, pigmeat, lamb and gain sectors in 2014.

In terms of its Origin Green programme, engagement of the meat sector is a key driver. Brennan explained to date 296 companies have signed up for the Origin Green programme, with 37 verified members of Origin Green, 45 plans submitted and 214 workshops took place last year.

Meanwhile, Dr Rogier Schulte of Teagasc spoke on efficient farming and the link between profitability and environmental sustainability at farm level. He noted that greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase by five to 10 per cent and outlined recommendations to reduce GHG emissions while meeting Food Harvest 2020 targets. He noted that the Carbon Navigator tool was key for farmers in this regard.