26 April 1996

8000 bull calves a week face chop as new scheme begins

By Shelley Wright

UP to 8000 dairy bull calves under 10 days old could be destroyed this week under the calf slaughter scheme, which opened on Monday.

The EU scheme, administered by the Intervention Board, offers £103 a head for the calves. Slaughtering will take place in IB approved abattoirs; 41 had been approved by the middle of the week, with a similar number await-ing inspection and certification.

The IB refused to say how many calves it anticipates being slaughtered but conceded it could be as many as 8000 a week because that was the number of animals that were previously exported.

Eligible calves must come from dairy breeds – Holstein Friesian, Ayrshire, Jersey or Guernsey. As well as being under 10 days old, the animals navels must be healed.

The IB will pay the £103.47 for each calf, directly to the abattoir. That will be done monthly and it is up to the abattoir to negotiate a price with the farmer.

Peter Scott, secretary general of the Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers, said the amount farmers receive for calves will vary around the country, depending on the location and size of each plant and the MHS costs.

But he warned that the calves being slaughtered are completely worthless to the meat industry, so all costs will be passed back to producers. "I think a realistic figure that farmers might expect for each calf would be between £50 and £70." Abattoirs have to give three days notice to the IB before calves are culled and Meat Hygiene Service officials must be present throughout the process from arrival at the slaughterhouse to disposal of the carcasses. The abattoir will have to fund the MHS charges.

Farmers must provide details to the slaughterhouse of their holding number, the ear-tag number of each calf, its breed and date of birth. Producers will also have to sign a form agreeing to allow the IB to check any details given. And producers are warned that there will be random, unannounced farm checks to verify claims.

The Federation remains opposed to the scheme because it would prefer calves to be kept on and fattened to replace the cow beef traditionally used in manufactured meat products.