The Beef Forum must deliver in terms of having the 420kg carcase weight limit and the post 30 month age restriction removed from the current carcase specification criteria used by the meat factories, according to ICSA General Secretary Eddie Punch.

“This is already happening in an informal way,” he said.

“Finished cattle numbers are starting to dry up and we are getting reports of factories accepting sucker bred bulls with kill outs well in excess of 420kg.

“But this is no surprise, as it is tradition for the plants to be more flexible in the way they buy cattle, once stock numbers start getting scarce. But that still leaves the unanswered question: why can’t the factories accept these top quality suckler bred cattle as in-spec the year round?

“We know that only one sixth of the beef exported from Ireland ends up on a UK supermarket shelf. The rest goes into the UK catering trade or is shipped to the Continent. At ICSA we see no reason why top quality suckler bred bulls, which will invariably be in excess of 420kg deadweight, cannot secure full in-spec status the year round.”

Eddie Punch went on to say that the Beef Forum must seek to clarify the future for suckler beef in Ireland.

“And if it turns out that suckler beef is not a viable option moving forward, then so be it. But farmers must be told the facts of the case and allowed to plan for the future accordingly.”

Commenting on the prospects for beef prices over the coming months the ICSA representative predicted that farmgate returns may well strengthen in the run-up to Christmas.

“This is a direct consequence of supply and demand. Cattle numbers are already falling. Finishers will be looking to get prices of at least €4.00/kg for animals finished between now and Christmas. And substantially more than this for cattle fed through to next spring,” he concluded.