The beef price slump is causing concern among Cumbrian livestock farmers. Local farmers fear that trade is following the same downward pattern as last year.

West Cumbrian beef and sheep farmer Alistair Mackintosh said that the industry should not talk itself into a depression, but he agreed that prime beef price is significantly down on this time last year.

“We have to recognise that more cull cows are coming onto the market from dairy farmers because of the crisis facing that sector, and Irish beef coming across the water is cheaper than our beef,” said Mr Mackintosh, a National Farmers Union Cumbrian council delegate.

“But it was always going to be a challenge. When one sector is in crisis it is always going to have a negative effect on other sectors.”

Deadweight beef prices have declined steeply over the past three months.

Since January 31, deadweight steers have fallen 23.7p/kg to 341.4p/kg for the week ending April 18, and prices are now about 17.8p/kg lower than at this point last year.

“Mince and diced beef on the market will hold the top end of beef down, which is not helping the situation,” said Mr Mackintosh.

With prices continuing to decline, risks are growing that animals may be kept on farms longer than they should be and exceed abattoir specification.

Debbie Butcher, senior analyst at Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board AHDB/Eblex, said UK supplies were going to tighten, a situation already happening in Ireland.

Chris Dodds, executive secretary at the Livestock Auctioneers Association, said despite prices at marts being hit by the dip in the deadweight trade, certain animals, including butcher-type cattle, were holding up relatively well.

In a bid to give the brand a boost Red Tractor Assurance is set to launch one of its biggest campaigns to date.

Red Tractor marketing manager Andy Thompson said: “With the barbecue season about to get underway, it is an ideal time to remind shoppers about the importance of choosing quality assured Red Tractor ingredients.”

The promotion will be visible on meat packs over the summer.

“We need to promote our product over and above Irish and other imports.

“There is a lot of Australian beef coming into this country that is cheaper,” said Mr Mackintosh.