‘We don’t want to see any restrictions on factory kills’ – Brendan Golden

As the beef kill begins to rise this month, the trade is stabilising for now. General quotes for steers and heifers are hovering around €3.60/kg.

As processing plants enter one of their peak killing periods, beef farmers are voicing concerns that quoted prices will take another hit – as kill numbers increase.

AgriLand spoke to the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) National Livestock Committee chairman, Brendan Golden, to get his view.

He said: “The year’s kill up to now is running 5% ahead of last year. It is also predicted that there will be 50,000 less [cattle] for the year, so we shouldn’t have any glut from now on. This should keep the base price steady.”

Brendan explained how retail trade, in our main Irish beef export market, is thriving at the moment:

What we are hearing from the UK is that there is a buoyant trade at retail level. We believe we should be getting more for our animals.

“We do take into account that the European market is a long way behind, but we are sending around 45-50% of our beef to the UK market and it is strong. Even our home market is performing well, though it accounts for just a small percentage. They [the factories] really could afford to move on [in terms of price].”

Brendan also mentioned how consumer demand is aiding the sale of prime cuts, saying: “Recent data coming back to us suggests that demand for the higher, prime-value cuts of meat, such as steak and roast, has increased in the supermarket.

“This is all positive – against all the negativity around Brexit.”

Covid-19 concerns

Speaking about the recent impact that Covid-19 has had on processing facilities and beef farmers, Brendan said: “Listening to agents, there have been one or two processing plants recently that have been working at a lower capacity – due to the impact that Covid-19 has had on worker numbers.

“The biggest fear is that, as incidences increase again, it would start to bite back [with the possibility of temporary factory closures].”

“This is as we enter peak kill period – up to close to the end of November. This is why we don’t want to see any restrictions on kills.”

Comparing Ireland’s processing activity during recent months to European counterparts, Brendan added: “We are lucky that we have not suffered the same backlog of cattle, as seen in Europe, due to not being able to get animals killed as restrictions have been imposed.”