If beef becomes too expensive in the shops, then consumers will stop buying it. In fact, this may already be happening. That was the view expressed by well-known Co. Derry-based livestock farmer, Robert Miller at last weekend’s Castlewellan Show.

He went on to claim that he is losing up to 40p/kg on every finished animal he sells at the present time.

“The market is offering an average of 430p/kg for clean cattle at the present time. But that is around 40p short of what I need to break even,” Miller explained.

“Fertiliser prices have quadrupled over the past number of months with energy and feed prices doubling and trebelling respectively during the same period.”

Government support for livestock sector

Miller believes that the government must step in to help alleviate the pressure on input costs that all livestock farmers are facing up to at the present time.

“Cutting taxes on energy and fuel is one way of doing this,” he said.

The Tobermore man also wants the government to deliver more support to the beef sector, across the board. He cut back his fertiliser usage earlier this year by almost a half.

“I had no option, it was just too expensive,” he stressed.

“And I had bought fertiliser early enough in the season at £600/t. I don’t know how those farmers are coping, who were confronted with prices of almost £1,000/t.”

Winter fodder

Miller admits that he will not have enough home-grown forage to meet his own needs over the coming winter months.

He is importing hay and straw from England at the present time.

“I normally do bring in straw and hay for other local farmers from this time of the year onwards,” Miller further explained.

“But this is the first time that I have been left with no option to feed these forages to my own stock. And this is not a cheap option. Fodder prices are well up across England at the present time.

“But the cost of transporting the likes of hay and straw into Northern Ireland at the present time is absolutely horrendous.

“Cow prices are on a par with those for prime beef because of the growing demand for minced beef at the present time.

“I am losing in excess of £120 per head on every steer and heifer I finish right now.  

“This is not sustainable. Government must act to support the beef sector. Consumers need the likes of milk and bread. These are staple food items,” he continued.

“Beef is not. As a consequence, livestock farmers cannot rely on the general public to pay the commercial prices required to cover the production costs impacting on all beef enterprises at the present time. Government must step in now.”