16 February 1996

BSE: BEEF FIGHTS BACK

Interested in making a premium on cattle that often make below average prices? Turn to page p14

Despite the drop in beef retail sales since the BSE scare, the market has since rallied with prices now only just below those of this time last year.

With the sharp decline in BSE cases in 1995, and no scientific evidence to suggest British beef cannot be eaten safely, lets hope we have seen an end to such media scaremongering tactics.

That said both beef and dairy producers must continue to maximise production efficiency and output to safeguard profit.

With the approach of the 21st century, EU producer prices are bound to fall as GATT is implemented. Exports will be restricted and imports relaxed.

In the short term, cereal prices look firm and protein feeds are in demand so putting pressure on input costs.

Fortunately, producers have the tools to select the most efficient sires and dams proven to transmit improved performance to their offspring. Commercial producers are wise to base their breeding decisions on such performance records.

The promise of new estimated breeding values this year for gestation length and calving ease should further aid suckler producers.

Maximising the value of high merit stock, or indeed of milk, will demand careful marketing expertise. It will always pay to secure an outlet first.

Increasingly retailers and consumers seek quality assurance. Satisfying these needs will require traceability and an openness by producers as yet unprecedented in the industry. Its a demand producers cannot afford to ignore.