DEFRA WILL abolish the over 30-month scheme for cattle as early as July 2005, an industry insider has told FARMERS WEEKLY.

“We have been given a range of dates that extends from July to September next year.

“But we are urging DEFRA to fix its sights on the earliest date possible,” the insider said.

The scheme will then be replaced by a new version that will remove cattle born before Aug 1, 1996, the date from which feeding mammalian meat and bonemeal was banned.

“About 25% of beef suckler cows will go into the new scheme.

“But the release back on to the market of about 500,000 animals a year will raise our self-sufficiency to 80%,” said the insider.

“The extra supply will lead directly to a boost in our market share, as retailers are ready and waiting to take more UK beef,” he said.

Meanwhile, DEFRA has appointed an independent expert to review its work on BSE cases in animals that were born after Aug 1, 1996.

William Hill of the University of Edinburgh will report back to DEFRA by the end of May 2005.

This will allow time for DEFRA to review and implement any suggestions made by Prof Hill before the OTMS ban is lifted.

Although meat and bonemeal has been banned from Aug 1996, nearly 100 cattle born after this date have been confirmed with BSE.