It is likely that more farmers will revert to traditional steer beef finishing as opposed to young bull production, according to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

He stated that this is due to the fact Irish steers are a unique selling point for our beef industry that enables us to achieve premium prices for that product. In the domestic cattle market, the relationship between processors and producers is a highly interdependent one.

Difficulties relating to the production of young bull beef in Ireland became prominent towards the end of 2013 and the early months of 2014.

The Minister said bull beef is not a traditional system in Ireland; our grass fed steer and heifer production systems suit our climate and land availability. Producing quality young bull beef that meets specification requirements for meat factories requires intensive periods of meal feeding and finishing within a short timeframe, thus adding input costs to the producer.

“Feedback received by Bord Bia from customers in various Continental markets consistently indicates that they highly value prime steer beef coming from grass-based production systems. Young bull beef is seen as more of a commodity and tends to sell for a lower price. There will continue to be niches, in markets like Italy, where there is demand for a certain amount of young bull beef. However, Irish beef producers should be mindful that this is a specialised market for a restricted carcase specification and that it has become more price competitive in recent years.”

“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of both sides working together to manage the type and volume of cattle being brought to market so that the supply chain does not undermine the viability of beef production systems for either winter finishers or suckler farmers. I note that Michael Dowling, in his recent report to the Beef Roundtable, suggested a greater role for contracts in the production of young bulls; this requires further exploration on both sides. It is essential that any farmer considering a move to produce bull beef has a clear signal and understanding from his processor that a market exists for this product.”