BEEF FARMERS are already reacting to the prospect of decoupling by mothballing their businesses, the National Beef Association has warned.

NBA chief executive Robert Forster said those taking such action were unlikely to return until a rise in market income persuaded them it was financially safe to do so.

“Their actions signal what will happen across the industry unless the pressing issue of a realistic slaughter price is resolved,” said Mr Forster.

“If these farmers are making decisions like this now, the industry can be sure others will soon follow unless a quick upward market movement persuades them to change their minds,” he said.

Some processors and industry strategists have been hoping that supplies will be sustained on the grounds that farmers will be slow to cast aside long-established business habits.

But a number of intensive dairy bull finishers had already suspended activity until a significant rise in the price of finished animals arrives, Mr Forster said. They may shut down altogether if there is no price increase, he added.