The cash-flow implications of the latest foot and mouth disease outbreak for the Scottish livestock industry are appalling, according to Brian Pack, chief executive of auctioneering and processing business, ANM Group.
The Scottish auctioneering industry had been geared up for an exceptionally busy period and the inability to trade store stock in the coming weeks could generate massive difficulties for auctioneers and farmers, said Mr Pack.
“In the eight week autumn period of September and October we handle 60% of our annual throughput – £35 million worth of stock. It’s an unbelievable figure,” Mr Pack told FWi.
“Empty auction markets are expensive places,” he added. “We are very quiet throughout the summer and we have already lost three weeks in August. We were all geared up to be exceptionally busy in the weeks ahead – this is harvest time for Scottish auctioneers.”
Mr Pack said over-stocking would quickly become a major issue in parts of the country – particularly in LFAs. “Stock have to move at this time of year. It has been a difficult summer anyway and there’s not a lot of keep about.”
The industry, he said, had already been reeling from the increased cereal prices. “Feeders had already been questioning how they could fatten cattle profitably and now they are not even getting the chance. We had a reasonably successful sale of 1600 store cattle at Caithness on Monday but even then prices were back £50-£60/head on last year,” he said.
“A real concern is the impact of the loss of export markets on lamb prices. “Perhaps Europe will take an enlightened approach and view it as a spur from the last outbreak but it seems reasonable to assume export markets will not be re-opened quickly this time.
“At this time of year 30% of prime lambs are usually exported and if that market is closed it means 50% more lambs on the home market to dispose of,” said Mr Pack.
He added it was vital movement restrictions were freed up as soon as possible. “Getting stock moving under veterinary supervision will help the whole process. Hopefully, on the back of the lifting of the previous movement restrictions, the whole process should be faster,” he said.