ICSA warns beef farmers of “history repeating itself”

‘Increased calf births and decreased live exports recipe for sharp price falls in 18-24 months’ time’

‘Only twelve months ago surplus of dairy bull beef caused…havoc with the trade’

Sligo News File Online

ICSA National Beef Committee Chairman, Edmond Phelan
ICSA National Beef Committee Chairman, Edmond Phelan

ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan has said that he is getting “quite concerned” at trends which show increased calf births for the early weeks of 2015 coinciding with a sharp fall in live exports. 

“While the mart trade is flying at the moment for all grades of store cattle, I am concerned that the trends suggest that history is repeating itself all over again. Increased calf births and decreased live exports is a recipe for sharp price falls in 18-24 months’ time.

“Farmers need to be especially cautious with buying dairy calves because these will be only fit at a time when surplus cattle are most likely. It’s only twelve months ago that the surplus of dairy bull beef caused all sorts of havoc with the trade. At the very least, dairy-derived calves should be castrated to give some flexibility.

“Obviously the risk of a super levy is leading to the retention of some calves on dairy farms until the end of this month. This, combined with price, is responsible for a 39% drop in calf exports so far in 2015. There has also been a sharp fall in weanling exports to Italy (-29%) albeit it on small numbers at this time of year.

“To put it context, we have exported some 4,800 fewer calves, weanlings and stores compared to this time last year and an extra 90,000 calf births have been registered, including an extra 13,000 suckler births.”

The ICSA chairman admitted, however, that it is still early days to be sure of trends.

“All we are saying at the minute is that these trends need to be Cattle Image 1monitored carefully by farmers when making decisions about producing beef down the line. Calf registrations can be impacted by better fertility leading to earlier calving and live exports at this time of year are still only based on limited numbers. However, farmers need to be cautious based on what we have seen to date.”