4 August 1995

£30m a year is price of lice say leather makers

A record-breaking total of more than 230,000 people attended the Royal Welsh Show at Builth Wells. Rebecca Austin and

Robert Davies continue

their report

LICE damage is costing the UK cattle hide industry between £20m and £30m a year, according to the British Leather Confederation (BLC), speaking at the Royal Welsh Show.

Lice numbers have increased since the 80s, when farmers stopped treating cattle for warbles on a regular basis, said BLCs Paul Pearson.

In response, the BLC is looking at producer reward systems related to skin or hide quality, based on systems practiced in Sweden, New Zealand and Australia.

Swedish producers are paid an £11 a head premium if they take part in the Flawless Hide Scheme. To be eligible they must:

&#8226 Dehorn cattle.

&#8226 Treat all cattle against lice.

&#8226 Remove barb wire or use in conjunction with electric fencing.

&#8226 Vaccinate against ringworm.

"In this country we are also looking at the possible relevance of farm assurance schemes and how they might relate to hide and skin quality," said Mr Pearson.

New Zealand and Australia use a similar scheme. "It should be possible to identify hides when they are pulled off at abattoirs used by farm assured schemes and follow them through to the processors and graders," he said. "Producers with hides which grade well will then earn a premium."

&#8226 A survey carried out by the British Leather Technology Centre shows that, on average, cattle hides processed over winter carry 2kg of dung on them. "This irrevocably damages the quality and value of the hide," said Mr Pearson.