Co. Down suckler beef farmer Sam Chesney is confirming that more than £5/kg is now available for finished cattle in Northern Ireland.

“But we are talking select lots only; top grading continental heifers, for the most part,” he told Agriland.

“There is a scarcity of beef at the present time. And this is why cattle prices are remaining strong. And this is particularly the case in the marts.

“But the real issue concerns the margin that farmers are actually making at the present time.”

According to Chesney, compound feed prices in Northern Ireland remain at historically high levels.

“Yes, fertiliser prices have come back to some degree over recent weeks. But they are still way above where they were prior to the outbreak of war in Ukraine,” he commented.

“Most beef farmers would be prepared to take a lower beef price if their input costs would come back to where they were 18 months ago.”

Food security

Chesney also believes that food rationing could become a reality in the not too distant future.

“This is certainly a possibility if we see farm input costs continuing to increase,” he stressed.

“And all of this is taking place against the backdrop of a fast-growing global population.”

Meanwhile, the poor weather up to this point has been creating major management headaches for Sam Chesney. He calves just short of 100 suckler cows during the spring months.

“It has been one of the longest winters that I can remember,” he stressed.

“We had some of the early calvers out in February. But the weather was that bad in March that more or less all the cattle are now back in.

“We have had to use every nook and cranny around the yard to house all the cattle and their calves. It has been a management nightmare. Thankfully, we have plenty of silage; many of the neighbours have not been that lucky.”


From a herd breeding point of view, Sam has used a lot of Stabiliser genetics on the cows over the past three years.

“I have also started to use some Hereford sires as well,” he explained.

“All the male calves are finished as young bulls at between 13- and 14-months-of-age. Carcass weights are in the region of 400kg.

“It takes approximately 1t of meal to generate this level of performance. The heifers are finished at between 21- and 24-months-of-age.

“They do get a second grazing season; the focus here is on securing the highest possible levels of performance from grass,” he added.

Support in Northern Ireland

Looking ahead, Sam Chesney believes that the suckler sector in Northern Ireland needs a specific support package.

He said he is aware of the recent decision by the Irish government to push ahead with a €200 suckler headage payment.

“During my period as chairman of the Ulster Farmers’ Union [UFU] cattle and sheep committee, I pushed to have a support scheme for the suckler sector recognised,” he said.

“And the committee managed to get this issue over the line in the form of a headage payment on cows. However, in my opinion, the payment should be directed towards the calf.”