New factory specs could cost beef farmers over €10m per year – IFA

Irish beef farmers could lose €10.6m each year due to the introduction of carcass weight and age limits, according to IFA.

Analysis of the 2015 slaughter data shows that carcass weight and age are the major specification factors impacting on price returns to farmers.

It says that factories are currently imposing price penalties of 10c/kg on carcasses over 420kg and 20c/kg on carcasses over 440kg. In addition, some plants are attempting to apply cuts over 400kg on heifers.

According to IFA, if these carcass weight cuts were applied across the board for a full year it would impact on over 133,000 cattle and cost Irish farmers €10.6m or an average of €79 per head.

IFA analysis also shows that 89% of the cattle hit by the weight cuts come from the suckler herd.

On the other in-spec criteria under the QPS, the analysis shows age and grade were the major factors in denying farmers the benefit of the 12c/kg in-spec bonus.

In 2015, it shows that 68% of steers and 82% of heifers were under 30 months of age, while only 24% of bulls were slaughtered under 16 months of age.

The analysis also shows that the majority of cattle slaughtered in Ireland grade O= or better for confirmation and fat score of 2+ to 4=. (70% of steers, 76% of heifers and 73% of young bulls).

When age, carcass weight and grade specifications are combined, the number of animals receiving the in-spec 12c/kg bonus for steers is 44%, heifers 59% and for under 16 month young bulls 18%, it shows.

IFA National Livestock Chairman, Henry Burns said IFA has consistently identified the problems with the 30-month age limit and carcass weight cuts as the major specification issues at the Beef Forum.

Burns said IFA has totally opposed the imposition of carcass weight cuts by the factories as they negatively target our best performing quality cattle, mainly from the suckler herd.