Abattoirs are paying decent premiums for over-30-month cattle which made their long-awaited return to the food chain this week.

The Meat and Livestock Commission said abattoirs were paying anything between 100p/kg dw to 130p/kg dw for older animals, depending on quality.

“That’s a decent premium over the 86p/kg they would have been getting under the over-thirty-month scheme,” said beef specialist Duncan Sinclair, though he pointed to a general firming of the finished cattle market as supplies throughout Europe tighten.

Association of Independent Meat Suppliers policy director Norman Bagley agreed the market outlook was positive. “We said last week that our members would have to pay over 100p/kg to tempt farmers to put their animals into the food chain and that is what is happening. Demand is looking good.”

But he cautioned that it was still early days, with numbers climbing slowly. In the first two days of trading in over-30-month cattle, just 204 had been processed at three abattoirs.

One of these was Anglo-Beef Processors, Shrewsbury, which slaughtered 30 cows on the first day.

Brain stem samples were sent to the laboratory at Runcorn and returned as negatives for BSE within 12 hours, allowing the carcasses to progress for processing.

“Even on day one, we have demonstrated that the system of testing works, and works quickly,” said a spokesman.

As Farmers Weekly went to press on Wednesday (9 November) a total of 13 abattoirs had been approved for BSE testing, with another three due to complete their trials on Thursday and Friday (see table in this week’s magazine).

Attention is now focused on Brussels, where the EU Commission has yet to publish its proposal for winding up the date-based export scheme.

That is expected in the next week or two. The proposal will then be put to an expert committee, though EU farm ministers are likely to have the final say.

Reports from auction marts reveal that the best sorts were also in demand, fetching well over 50p/kg liveweight.