30 August 1996

B&W calves for the chop

VIRTUALLY every black-and-white bull calf is now destined for slaughter, following a lift in the Calf Processing Aid Schemes upper age limit.

From last week, eligibility extends to animals between seven and 20 days old. (Previously the ceiling was 10 days.)

Every Friesian bull went into the scheme last week, said auctioneer John Bundy at Salisbury, Wilts. In the past, the figure was about 80%, he suggests, with the remainder falling outside for the following reasons:

&#8226 Some farmers, not fully aware of the rules, would miss the deadline.

&#8226 Calves in poor health may have been unsuitable for sale before the age of 10 days.

&#8226 Producers with just one or two eligible calves may have been unprepared to travel to market.

But a few people will continue not to use the scheme onmoral grounds, he suggests.

Auctioneer Ken Pritchard says the change will bring much needed new flexibility. "At a busy time of year, farmers did not want to have such a narrow time window for selling stock."

He saw black-and-white bulls average over £100 at Shrewsbury, Shropshire, last week. Those outside the scheme can be expected to make about £70 less, he suggests.

Some commentators say, however, that the change to the age rules will bring few, if any, more animals to the scheme. It will just reduce the need for farmers to be less than truthful about precise birth dates, said one auctioneer.

According to the MLC, over 118,000 had been processed by Aug 9. This matches the number which, in the past, would have been exported.