Cull Cash Plans make Pedigree Upgrade wise:By Jonathan Long

 CATTLE CULLED due to bovine TB, BSE, EBL and Brucellosis could be compensated for with flat-rate payments should DEFRA”s latest proposals for disease compensation come to fruition.

Under the proposals, beef and dairy cattle would be compensated for by DEFRA according to age, sex and pedigree status. Pedigree and non-pedigree cattle from both dairy and beef sectors would also receive different payments.

The proposed system it hopes to introduce early next year has 29 categories under which cattle would be compensated, based on average values from the month before they were slaughtered (see News).

But the proposed categories are too broad, says National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster. “It doesn’t even allow for the difference between breeding and finishing cattle. On top of that, there is no mention of an animal”s breeding, some breeds and crosses are more valuable than others.”

However, with pedigree cattle likely to be worth more under the proposals than commercial herds, moving to pedigree status may be worthwhile.

This does not mean starting a new herd, commercial herd owners can, under EU rules, grade up cattle. This involves breeding cattle to the stage where they are nearly pure and recognised by the relevant breed society.

But the process can be a long one, says Holstein UK’s administration manager Jacky Palmer. “Grading up commercial black-and-whites to pedigree status will take at least three generations.”

To start on the road to pedigree status commercial black-and-white herd owners should first join Holstein UK. “Then they can initiate a whole-herd grade up, registering every homebred cow that is 50% Holstein.

 “The first generation of cows in the grading up process will be entered on to Holstein UK’s ASR register, their progeny are then entered on to the BSR register. The progeny of BSR register cattle then become full pedigrees,” she says.

Certificates containing the animal’s name and that of its sire are issued at the ASR stage, but these are not full pedigrees.

Costs involved with grading up Holsteins include £3.50 to enter an animal on the ASR register, then £10 to enter an animal on the BSR register and the same fee for a full pedigree registration.

“Grading up also involves a visit from a field officer to check and verify the paperwork. You also only get one chance at grading up, once you have made one application, that”s it,” she adds.

Grading up is also available in the beef sector, as EU rules state that all breed societies have to provide a facility to allow non-pedigree animals to be bred up, says British Limousin Cattle Society chief executive Ian Kerr.

 “Our grading up register starts with 75% pure cows. Once their descendants reach 97% purity, they are given full British Limousin status. But this is not the same as a pure French Limousin.”

 Mr Kerr reckons about 100-150 of the 18,000 calves that will be registered with the British Limousin Cattle Society this year will be from graded up cattle. “Grading up Limousins costs 25 for each animal registered, including the base cow,” he adds.

The consultation document Cattle Compensation: Bovine TB, Brucellosis, BSE and Enzootic Bovine Leukosis is available from DEFRA (020 7238 6575 defra.library@defra.gsi.gov.uk). Responses must be received by Dec 24.