The Ulster Farmers’ Union is encouraging beef farmers to negotiate with processors to gain a higher base price as abattoirs in Northern Ireland experience cattle shortages.
The comment was made following the publication of data by the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC), obtained from the Animal and Public Health Information System (APHIS), on lower cattle availability.
UFU beef and lamb chairman, Sam Chesney, said, “Reports coming from the major processing plants have indicated a shortage of prime cattle coming forward for slaughter."
This, he added, gives Northern Ireland farmers an advantage, and he urges farmers to negotiate on beef price and "not be afraid to challenge" what processors are offering.
"Too often beef farmers are price-takers and as the primary producer, they end up taking the brunt of the price squeeze when farmgate prices plummet."
"The beef base price is aggressively below the three-and five-year average, but live markets have become stronger in recent weeks and there is a strong demand for beef cattle."
Farmers need to look at all options for increasing revenue, he stressed.
“The release of data on lower cattle availability, has presented an opportunity to our farmers."
Drop-in beef calf registrations
There has been a continuous decline in beef calf registrations - January-July 2019 seen a decrease of almost 17,000 beef calves registered to suckler cows.
“With a Brexit extension and an election just around the corner, a no-deal outcome is not off the table just yet and once again beef farmers are left to endure this prolonging uncertainty which is unacceptable."
"The beef industry is a major contributor to the local economy, but the sector has never been so vulnerable having already experienced a substantial financial loss that doesn’t take into consideration the rising production costs."
The fall in beef calf registrations, he said, shows that farmers have already started to make "serious" decisions about their businesses.
Alongside other UK farming unions, it has called for a beef support package and a variable premium, to provide "some certainty" for beef farmers going forward.