‘Organic beef sells for a 25% premium, but it’s not suitable for all farms’

Organic beef may be worth 15-25% more than conventional beef, but farmers must assess their systems before making to switch to organic production, according to Teagasc’s James McDonnell.

The Teagasc Financial Specialist said that farmers must look carefully at their farms and their skill sets to make sure they are suitable for organic farming.

“Organic beef is in demand at present. The market has always returned a premium price to the farmer. Typically this has been 15-25% above conventional prices.

“Beef farming is a tough business. The average farmer in Ireland is spending some of the cheque that arrives in the post.

Beef farmers should be turning a profit without having to dig into the payment cheque. The very best organic farmers are doing this.

Speaking at an organic farm walk on John Purcell’s farm in Golden, Co. Tipperary, McDonnell said that only the best beef grassland managers should consider making the switch to organic farming.

“In organic farming, you do not have the safety net of a bag of Nitrogen to fall back on to grow grass or the extra tonne of concentrate at finishing, so grassland management is very important,” he said.

McDonnell said that if farmers are not able to manage grass correctly under conventional systems they should stay avoid making the switch to organics.

He said that these farmers should aim to up-skill or increase the “efficiency” on their own farms before moving from conventional to organic beef production.

“The key to getting the maximum returns from the market is to produce a product that the market demands,” he said.

And farmers who are able to maximise the carcass weights through grass will run more profitable systems.

He said that the average organic beef carcass slaughtered in Ireland weights 320kg and increasing the carcass weight by 20-30kg will really benefit the profitability of the business.

This is the case as the organic beef price is currently €5.20/kg, he said.

“If the grass quality is right you will produce higher carcass weights. It is less about the grade of the animal and more about the weight of the carcass.

To get a good market return in organic farming – it is all about getting as heavy of a carcass as possible.