Agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew has promised to help livestock farmers who choose to continue in the industry, despite the huge financial pressures flagged up in a report yesterday.
The minister said the Northern Ireland Red Meat Task Force report, set up to develop a five- to 10-year strategy for the beef and sheep meat industry, had come at a critical juncture.
The independent report revealed that livestock farmers are losing £180m a year and even the most efficient are unable to turn a profit at today's market prices.
Ms Gildernew said: "This report comes at a critical juncture for our red meat industry which, like other sections of our agricultural and rural economy, is facing real challenges.
"The situation is serious. We must take stock collectively to consider the recommendations and the way forward. My department will respond positively to the report and is ready to work through this with all the other key stakeholders."
The minister said that, while the report focuses on the economic viability of the red meat sector, she needed to look at this in the wider context of the contribution the red meat sector can make to the sustainability of rural communities.
"We will work to help those farmers who choose to stay in the sector and look at new systems and will also do our best to help those who wish to change direction and take up other opportunities," she pledged.
"The Task Force Report has been completed with support from all parts of the red meat sector, including government. It shows that everyone involved has a pivotal role to play and we all need to move forward in this partnership approach to secure the future sustainability of our red meat sector."