6 January, 1998

By FW reporters

BEEF farmers know only too well that this year is unlikely to be better than last. But it could hardly be worse.

That said, finished steer values are set to spend much of the next 12 months at between 90p/kg and 95p/kg liveweight, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission.

The on-going absence of an export market will continue to take its toll, predicts the MLC. But a token amount of beef could leave Northern Ireland under the certified herd scheme.

Domestic demand for beef – which rose last year by 14% — is forecast to increase by only 2% this year to 840,000 t.

This all comes against a backdrop of falling cattle supplies.

Prime slaughterings are expected to fall by 4% to 2.17 million. At the same time, lower suckled calf and cull cow values are forecast to lead to a drop in suckler herd numbers.

The success of the calf processing aid scheme will also reduce supplies. The scheme has taken about 600,000 calves out of production over the past year. Of these, about 10% were beef-bred animals.

As the new year opens, beef farmers should aim to reduce the number of prime cattle ending up in the over-thirty-month-scheme.

The current figure of about 1000 a week is, says the MLC, disappointingly high. And expensive too, when combined with the extra charges farmers face from the removal of the rendering subsidy.

Income from other subsidies will also fall, following last years Green Pound revaluations. Beef special premium rates for steers and young bulls are predicted to be £84.32 and £104.70/head respectively, with suckler cow premiums stuck at £112.40/head.

Extensification premiums should be worth around £28, with £40/head paid to those adopting a super-extensification policy.

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