Past Days: Livestock shortages occur as prices are expected to rise

The first sign of a shortage came when meat plants faced with fewer cattle paid £10-£12 more per kilo instead of the usual seasonal warming period when prices tend to fall. 300 kilo animal.

Despite falling dairy herds in both the north and south, more culls have taken place in Northern Ireland in the first six months of this year than on record in 1980.

This meant that fewer fat cattle were expected for the rest of the year.

Mr Wilson McCracken, of Rasharkin, Ballymena, is pictured with his grandson Alastair Morrison’s champion Suffolk ram lamb at the breed show and sale at Balmoral in August 1982. Also pictured are Mr Brian Smith, Bank of Ireland Ballymena Branch Manager and Bank of Ireland Agricultural Adviser Mr Lowry Cunnigham, presenting the sponsorship awards. Image: Farming Life/News Letter archive

From the beginning of the new year to the spring of 1982, enough cattle were expected to fall to meat plants.

Store cattle prices firmed and many rose further as farmers harvested under ideal weather began to stock up on winter feed.

Farming Life commented: “All this points to a good trade for weanling calves with their first sales coming soon.

“In the first seven months of 1981, cattle slaughter at meat export plants fell by a massive 41 percent compared to the same period in 1980, and was the lowest since 1973, according to the Livestock and Meat Board of Ireland.

Janet Boles of Lylehill, Templepatrick, is pictured with one of the prize-winning Suffolk rams from David Duncan, Largy Road, Crumlin, which fetched 520gns at the breed show and sale at Balmoral in August 1982. Image: Farming Life/News Letter archive

“Furthermore, even if the expected seasonal build-up of supply for the rest of the year approaches the level of recent years, production at meat plants will decrease by 33 percent for the year as a whole.”

The board, Farming Life, noted that there has been a severe decline in cattle marketing, partly due to the increased and largely illegal movement of cattle to Northern Ireland and partly due to increased stability in live exports, to Third Country Markets, particularly Libya and Egypt.

Commenting on cattle smuggling, the panel said: “While exact estimates of cattle smuggling into Northern Ireland are not available, it is believed to have exceeded at least 90,000 head in the first seven months of this year. .

“This is confirmed by a comparison of trade flows and slaughter for 1981 with the situation in recent years.

Auctioneer Arthur Robinson is pictured in action at the Suffolk breed show and sale at Balmoral in August 1982. Club secretary David Crossan, centre, looks on. Image: Farming Life/News Letter archive

“It is also supported by the fact that by 1981 total cattle slaughter in Northern Ireland was 27 per cent of total livestock on an all-Ireland basis, compared to a normal average share of 21 per cent.

“Furthermore, in the opposite direction, cattle slaughter at meat export plants in Eire has fallen to 37 per cent of all cattle culls on an all-Ireland basis and the normal share is around 51 per cent.

“In essence the problem arises mainly from the avoidance of the EEC MCA border tax payable on live cattle exported to Northern Ireland, but also due to the more favorable application of the UK Variable Premium scheme.

“As a result, meat plants in Eire are at a competitive disadvantage compared to their counterparts in Northern Ireland, both in terms of the supply of cattle and the marketing of beef abroad.

Mr Thomas Killick of Bangor with the reserve champion Suffolk ram at the breed show and sale at Balmoral in August 1982. Image: Farming Life/News Letter archive

“The MCA tax, which is currently over £41 per finished animal, was as high as £75 at the start of the year.

“Eire Council notes that the immediate impact of the cuts in the meat sector has been reflected in the industry being forced to reduce operations to a three-day working week, resulting in job losses in a sector where potential is so great.

“Decreasing availability of raw materials is also a setback in achieving the concept of value added industry; especially in the marketing of products to paid retail outlets.

“Although there is a prospect of seasonal supply of cattle, existing problems in the industry could be minimized if illegal movement of cattle is stopped.

“Another important aspect of cattle and beef exports so far this year has been the increased resilience of the live cattle trade to Third Countries.

“Total live exports to third countries increased by 40,000 head to 150,000 in the first seven months of this year.”

Mr Robert Hanna, Knockahollet, Ballymena, judging Suffolk sheep at the breed show and sale at Balmoral in August 1982. Photo: Farming Life/News Letter archives

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