Beef markets must deliver a price of at least €4.35/kg, according to IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns.

“This is the Teagasc breakeven figure. But, in truth, this is only the starting point. Given the downturn in cattle numbers this year and the opportunities which new markets, such as the US, will present, there is sufficient scope to improve this level of return substantially,” he said.

“I am not going to put an actual figure on what the market could deliver in 2015. All this would do is put an artificial ceiling on beef prospects. Rather it is a case of the plants ensuring that they get the best possible returns for Irish farmers. “

Burns went on to confirm that the next meeting of the Beef Roundtable will take place before the end of January.

“And we have a lot of unfinished business to get through,” he said.

“The recent quality assurance offer made by the factories is not worth commenting on. I would much prefer to see them coming forward with a realistic incentive on a cent/kg basis. What’s on the table at the moment is derisory.”

The IFA will also use the next roundtable meeting to secure changes regarding the current in-spec criteria for cattle.

“The plants will have to accept that animals up to 36 months are fully eligible,” said Burns.

“The current 30-month criterion is just far too restrictive. After all, ASDA and Sainsbury are happy to accept beef produced from cattle under three years of age. We will also push to have young bulls fully accepted as in-spec. The reality is that the factories are now paying full price for bulls up to twenty four months of age.”

Another issue likely to be raised by the IFA at the next roundtable is the trimming practises followed by the various meat plants. According to Henry Burns this is a very grey area and enhanced Department of Agriculture inspection protocols will be required to ensure that the interests of farmers are being protected at all times.