Cattle numbers for 2016/17 look very high and there needs to be focus on live cattle exports between now and year end, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) said.

Michael Guinan, Chairperson of the ICMSA’s Livestock Committee, says that a strong live export trade has always been hugely important to livestock producers and the reduction in live export levels to date this year should be of serious concern given its long-term implications for beef prices.

“We need to see proactive action from Bord Bia and the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine to boost live export levels by supporting live exporters in whatever way possible thus keeping cattle supplies at a level that will deliver a reasonable price for beef producers going forward,” he said.

Guinan said he wants particular concentration on the export of younger stock over the coming months given that calf births to-date are up almost 150,000 head.

He says that this will inevitably lead to problems in 2017 unless action is taken now.

If beef producers know one thing for certain it is that cattle supplies dictate the price they receive from the meat plants and the live export trade is the only way to ensure cattle supplies are in the farmers favour.

“That’s exactly why we now need a strong focus on exporting more cattle live.

“But to-date live export levels are down over 20,000 head on last year’s levels with calf and weanling exports down 10,000 head and 3,000 head respectively.

Guinan says that when we contrast those figures with the fact that births, to-date, are up 150,000 head we arrive at a situation that should cause real concern.

He said that the ICMSA accepts that state agencies have ‘upped’ their efforts regarding the meat trade but what farmers need now is a strong, co-ordinated concentration on live export trade that’s going to really get results in terms of seeing substantial numbers being exported so that we’ll be able to keep beef prices in a positive position in 2016 and 2017.

“If we fail to act now then farmers will suffer the consequences then,” Guinan said.