The number of young bulls slaughtered in the first five weeks of 2016 is 44% higher (+9,000) than the same period in 2015, according to figures from the Department of Agriculture.

The week-on-week young bull kill has also increased, with 1,695 more of these animal slaughtered in first week of February compared to the last week of January, these figures show.

Bord Bia’s Joe Burke said that this increase has occurred as many farmers thought young bulls were a viable option last year, as the steer and bull beef price were quite close.

“The prices paid for bulls were quite encouraging in 2015. Farmers got on relatively well with bulls and they have reacted to these relatively good prices.

Finishing bulls has become a more popular option for a number of farmers, but it is very dependent on the factory market for these animals.

Burke also said that the extra throughput of bulls is having a negative impact on the price being paid for these animals.

“The price difference between steers and bulls is wider again this year, with price differences of 25-30c/kg,” he said.

The beef specialist said that this has happened as the number of bulls killed has surpassed the factories weekly requirement of about 3,000 bulls.

He also said that farmers should be cautious when producing bulls, as any bull over 16 months-of-age is not eligible for the UK retail market, which is the main destination for Irish bull beef.

IFA beef price update

  • Steer base: 390c/kg
  • Young bull (O grade): 370c/kg
  • Young bull (R grade): 380c/kg
  • Young bull (U grade): 390c/kg

Teagasc’s Pearse Kelly said that bull beef production can be an attractive enterprise for some farms, but it is highly dependent on a “good beef price”.

The Head of Drystock Knowledge Transfer spoke at a recent farm walk in Co. Meath, where he said that a beef price of €4/kg is critical in making a profit in dairy bull calf to beef systems.

Kelly also said that farmers should ensure that they have a market for bulls, as demand for these animals tends to drop when the national beef kill is high.