Tight supply means higher bonuses could be on offer to beef farmers supplying in-spec cattle to abattoirs.

Some plants have announced better bonuses in recent weeks for farmers who are able to supply cattle more closely fitting the specification.

In Northern Ireland, the Livestock and Meat Commission said bonuses had generally increased from 8p/kg to 10p/kg, with a further 4p/kg supplement for cattle that had lived on no more than four farms. The criteria for the 10p/kg had not changed, said the LMC, showing that specification had become increasingly important.

Anecdotally, this reflects the picture across the UK, industry sources said. Bonuses have become more popular in recent years, according to Debbie Butcher, analyst at EBLEX.

“We have seen a drive moving in that direction, with more people taking advantage of breed bonus schemes, such as Aberdeen Angus and Beef Shorthorn.”

Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors Association, said with tight cattle supplies, companies were seeking to incentivise a closer fit to the specification.

During September prices had rebounded as supply was still fundamentally tight, added Ms Butcher, but for the past couple of weeks prices had remained level.

For the week to 21 September, prices remained robust but slowed slightly to 201.8p/kg for finished steers.

For the first time since 2010, prices were following the typical seasonal pattern, said Ms Butcher.

This comes as a DEFRA survey found a 3% decline in the beef suckler breeding herd in England in the past year.

Ms Butcher said, contrary to reports, this was not actually as worrying as it looked.

“It could have been a lot worse considering the numbers lost in bad weather and the number of barren cows,” Ms Butcher said.

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