Farmers thinking of keeping dairy bull calves should talk to their beef processors now to gauge what sort of commercial demand might exist for these animals in 30 months’ time, according to IFA Livestock Committee Chairman Henry Burns.

“The reality is that live exports must play a key role in maintaining a balanced cattle supply in this country,” he said.

“At this time of the year we traditionally export bull calves from dairy herds while later in the autumn the demand is for high quality weanlings from the suckler sector.

“The reality is that we have lost 100,000 beef cows over the past number of years while up to 150,000 extra cows will come into the dairy industry over the next five years. Given these trends, we have no option but to export up to 100,000 cattle annually in order to ensure the orderly marketing of beef from Ireland.”

Burns went on to confirm that the IFA remains committed to ensuring that the Beef Roundtable delivers in terms of the long-term prospects for beef farmers in Ireland.

“No date has been set for the next meeting of the group,” he said.

“But we will be pushing to have it convened well before the end of April.  There was a degree of progress made at the last meeting with regard to the young bull issue. But a number of fundamental challenges remain unresolved.

“Chief among these is the need to get the specification age limit for beef animals increased to a figure well above the current threshold of 30 months.

“And we have progressed this matter to a certain extent. However, it must be fully resolved before the flush of cattle comes on to the market this autumn.”

Burns firmly believes that the Roundtable must have a life well beyond the remit of the current Government.

“It must become part of the beef infrastructure in this country, whichever party or parties are in power,” he said.