BSEslaughter rates too low for top animals
By Shelley Wright
COMPENSATION plans for cattle over 30 months, that are banned from the food chain, has created a storm of protest from the farming industry.
EU farm ministers agreed last week that compensation of 85p/kg liveweight would be paid for UK cattle now deemed unfit for human consumption. But while most industry leaders accept that this rate is reasonable for cull cows from the dairy herd, they insist it is completely inadequate for beef animals.
NFU president, Sir David Naish, met farm minister Douglas Hogg on Tuesday and told him that there were many prime beef cattle and traditional breeds over 30 months that needed compensation well above the EU Commission rates.
The scheme to take older animals out of the food chain had to be implemented urgently Sir David stressed. Farmers were desperate to know when they would start seeing positive action from government.
NFU policy director, Ian Gardiner, added that should any compulsory slaughter scheme be forced on the UK industry then the current compensation package would be totally insufficient.
The National Cattle Breeders Association has told government that compensation should be based on the weight and conformation of individual animals. "It is just not right to pay 85p/kilo for a cull dairy cow and offer the same for a good Continental steer just because it happens to be over 30 months old," said David Benson, who is on the NCBA executive and chief executive of the British Charolais cattle society.
He suggested that cattle going for slaughter should be gathered at auction markets where they could be weighed. The Livestock Auctioneers Association has offered this service to MAFF.
Final details of how the compensation package will operate will be discussed on Friday by the EU Commissions beef management committee. A MAFF official said the government would press the committee to take account of the true value of beef animals.
"We will push very hard for a compensation package that fairly represents the ordinary market value of animals," he added.
If the beef committee agreed a package on Friday then MAFF would implement the scheme as quickly as possible. But the official said that until the measures were agreed no decisions could be taken about exactly how the compensation scheme would be administered.