UFU – “Negotiate hard to maximise returns”

Thursday, 30 October, 2014

Ulster Farmers’ Union Beef and Lamb Chairman Robert Davidson is encouraging producers to negotiate hard and price around when marketing their livestock in order to maximise returns as we enter into the Autumn/Winter period.

Robert Davidson said: “Weather wise we have experienced an excellent summer and autumn which has allowed producers to get extra weight off grass and finish cattle in favourable conditions, something which we haven’t been able to do for many years. In recent weeks, beef prices have stabilised which has injected a little more confidence into the sector and while stronger numbers of cattle have been passing through NI processors in recent weeks consumer demand has picked up in the second half of this year helping to absorb current supplies. 

“Producers should however be aware that some plants are heavily discounting dairy origin prime cattle with it being reported by farmers that there could be as much as 22p/kg (or £72.60 on a 330kg carcase) of difference for P+ cattle between plants.  This clearly not acceptable and where possible farmers should not allow these plants the opportunity to buy cheap beef when there are better options elsewhere.  Further to this, reports from Scotland indicate that cattle numbers are beginning to tighten and with Christmas not that far away this could open up opportunities for NI farmers either marketing cattle through the live ring or exporting them direct to slaughter. 

Robert Davidson continued; “For lamb producers, the good weather has meant that there have been relatively few growth setbacks for lambs leaving them ready for slaughter quicker.  As a consequence, there were some very strong numbers presented for slaughter throughout September and early October.  This has been reflected across the island and with numbers tightening over the last couple of weeks this could suggest that the autumn glut is over earlier than in previous years.  Strong competition from export buyers in the live ring has meant processors had to lift their quotes and I would encourage all farmers to bargain hard for a better price as processors scramble to fulfil their orders.”

Robert continued: “While producers have seen better returns over the last couple weeks, significant damage has been done over the course of the last 18 months both with the fodder crisis in 2013 and the collapse in the beef price in 2014.  We are now entering a period of high production costs and processors must provide stronger returns as farmers try and balance their books following the losses that have been previously incurred.  In this sense it is crucial that farmers explore every option available and negotiate hard in order to ensure that their returns are maximised from our key markets.”