By FWi staff

MORE home-killed beef is needed urgently to shut out a surge in heavily discounted imports that are already weakening prime cattle prices, claims the National Beef Association.

To fill this need, farmers who are giving up dairying should rear beef-cross heifer calves and black-and-white bulls that would otherwise be shot or sent to kennels.

“People who have quit dairying have on hand buildings that are suitable for beef- and calf-rearing that should not be wasted,” said NBA chief executive, Robert Forster.

“We would like them to buy-in calves and store cattle as soon as they have dispersed their milking herds and help the UK build a beef cattle barricade against imports that will be a further drag on home-killed prices unless their delivery is thwarted.”

According to the NBA, the emptying of intervention stores means cheap imported beef, mainly from South America, is already displacing domestic product in the ready meal, catering and fast food markets.

It claims that if imports are not stopped quickly the value of all prime cattle from cereal-fed Holstein bulls to grass-finished E-grade suckler-bred steers sold over 2001 could be undermined.

Mr Forster said that some ex-dairy farmers have already turned to beef and could be rearing Holsteins to secure the price of up to 160p/kg deadweight for contract specification bulls that some slaughterers have promised.

“This has to be welcomed, otherwise imports could soon account for almost 25% of the beef that is eaten in this country compared with just over 20% at present,” he added.