3 May 1996

BSE:Itschaos as auctioneers baulk at deadweight rule

By Shelley Wright

THE governments disposal scheme for cattle over 30 months, due to start this week, is still in complete chaos and is causing deep divisions in the livestock industry.

Auctioneers are furious that a deadweight option has been introduced that makes it more attractive for farmers to send cattle directly to abattoirs rather than through marts.

Compensation at 85p/kg liveweight and 170p/kg deadweight was agreed by the EU commissions beef management committee last week. But Meat and Livestock Commission manager for Scotland, Alastair Donaldson, said the limited trimming needed for these cattle meant that only the poorest quality cull cows would not make more money sold on a deadweight basis.

John Martin, secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, said the unfair payment scheme threatened to swing the pendulum away from the traditional use of markets.

And inequitable payments were not the only concern he added. The failure of the Intervention Board and MAFF to appoint a co-ordinator for the scheme threatened to throw the whole thing into chaos.

The NFU insisted it was vital that throughputs were controlled because more than 100,000 cattle were stuck on farms waiting to be slaughtered, and about 20,000 cull cows a week were banned from human consumption.

An NFU official said the rendering industry could only handle a maximum of 25,000 cattle a week. And with the numbers of cattle involved it could take at least a year for the backlog to be cleared.

All sides of the industry want the Meat and Livestock Commission to co-ordinate the scheme, feeding information about rendering capacity and required cattle throughput to all parties in the chain.

An MLC official said the commission continued to be involved in industry discussions but no decisions had yet been reached.

Further discrimination

Auctioneers also claim further discrimination against them because the Intervention Board will not take responsibility for cattle until they reach the abattoir. That would leave auctioneers having to pay haulage fees to carry stock from marts to slaughterhouses.

The Intervention Board issued a provisional list of approved abattoirs and auction markets throughout Britain this week. But as FARMERS WEEKLY went to press (Wed) it was unclear if any animals would be slaughtered this week.

And it also emerged that in England and Wales the IB had approved only half the markets that applied to be collection centres. West Country Euro-MP, Robin Teverson, warned that this could cause mart closures.

with associated job losses. And he urged the government to revise the list.