CATTLE NUMBERS entering the Over 30-Months Scheme have risen sharply in recent weeks, triggering the Rural Payments Agency to limit access to the scheme.

Throughput in the week ending Oct 17 was 20% higher than the same time last year, at almost 19,400 head.

Demand was likely to remain particularly strong this autumn due to the ceasing of the Slaughter Premium at the end of the year, said an RPA spokesman.

As of Nov 1, abattoirs have been asked to limit bookings to an average of five animals a day for each producer, to ensure fair access to the scheme.

Those with surplus capacity would be given the flexibility to adjust this up to their maximum weekly kill, said the spokesman.

The RPA has also sought ministerial approval to increase disposal capacity by about 30% – or 6500 animals a week, and has kept Christmas shutdowns to a minimum.