11 June 1999

EUs ban on fishmeal for beef an anomaly, says FIN

By Emma Penny

FISHMEAL is under the microscope again, this time relating to EU funds for promoting beef.

But the fishmeal industry believes current regulations are an anomaly, and are confident that they will be overturned.

Under EU legislation, retailers and caterers receiving promotion and advertising funds under the EU Quality Beef scheme – worth £1.8m to the UK this year – must ensure cattle eligible for the scheme must not have been fed fishmeal at any time.

Speaking to farmers weekly and raising the concern, Beds-based farm business consultant and beef producer Peter Sharpe said his local abattoir had recently asked him to certify that he did not use fishmeal in his cattle rations.

"I had a request to sign a declaration that I had not fed any fishmeal, fish oils or fish products in finishing diets. We do not feed fishmeal in rations, so it was academic, but I was surprised about it, as we are FABBL members, and fishmeal is permitted under its rules."

MLC legislation specialist Archie Sains says some people have already raised the point about fishmeal in relation to the scheme, but that it has caused few concerns for producers.

"We have no evidence that the ban has caused anyone any real problems. But we have to abide by the conditions to meet the scheme. I have heard that the EU is reviewing its position, but we have got to live with it for now," he says. But a spokesperson speaking on behalf of the Fishmeal Information Network says the regulation is an anomaly after the EUs consultation on fishmeal, which stated that it safe to feed.

"The regulation is obviously completely inconsistent. We have sent a letter to the commission, and understand MAFF is also pressing hard, so we hope to see some action shortly.

"We have been pressing for a change in the regulations since the outcome of the ECs fishmeal consultation in February, and believe there is heavy representation from other countries on this matter."

The European Quality Beef scheme provides funding towards promoting beef. Member states apply for funding, with the MLC acting as agent in the UK. Multiple retailers, caterers and Q Guild butchers are among those in the UK benefiting from the funding, which covers 60% of promotional costs. &#42

Plan for dairy cash crisis now

DAIRYfarmings looming cash flow crisis must be addressed now by taking both short-term and longer-term action.

ADAS head of dairying and livestock, John Allen, told a seminar at the Royal Bath and West Show that ADAS clients milk prices ranged from 16.79p/litre to 21.97p/litre, or more than 5p/litre. Price could be improved by attention to buyers requirements, and possibly looking to change buyer.

Feed costs were another potential target for savings, representing 25% of total costs. A study of ADAS clients showed that the 10% who paid least a tonne of feed made greater margins over feed than those who fed less of a more expensive concentrate.

Most exciting of all, said Mr Allen, was the genetic potential now in the national herd which had as yet not been unleashed. ADAS estimates that about 2,000 potential litres a cow a year are not being produced because they are not being properly fed and managed.

Realising that potential would take two to three years, he said, and in the meantime short-term actions were also needed. Investment could be deferred, spare assets could be cashed or developed. Heifers could be sold to finance purchase of cows or quota or both.

Mr Allen urged producers to be positive, plan long term, restructure where necessary, and be ready to take advantage of opportunities.

Accountant Susan Shaw said accountants with farming clients should appreciate that cash was king and help their clients by warning them well in advance of tax cash flow and also keeping payments on account to the minimum. &#42

Burning beats burying?

A NEW Scottish company has launched an on-farm incinerator for disposing of dead sheep and lambs.

The incinerator, which is claimed to reduce 50kg to ashes in less than two hours, made its first appearance at Scotsheep near Inverness.

"With the virtual collapse of the knackery industry it is essential that there is a clean alternative to burying," says the companys sales director Fergus Wood.

"The environmental regulations for burying sheep are becoming more and more onerous. It is very difficult for hill farmers to comply. I farm in the Trossachs, in Scotlands first national park, and came to the conclusion that I had to have an alternative to burying sheep. I teamed up with Hollis Engineers, a family business at Annan, Dumfriesshire, to develop the incinerator and it is now on the market," says Mr Wood.

The incinerator is gas powered and has six jets at the base and one in the chimney to reduce smoke and fumes. It costs £795 ex-works and the estimated cost of disposing of a mature sheep is £5. &#42

THIS is not an easy time of year to manage pasture, but it is well worth the effort to get it right, writes BGS grazing consultant Carol Gibson.

Top grass managers make decisions every day regarding how much pasture to allocate cows.

They consider how well the field was grazed yesterday, the quality and length of grass to be grazed and also milk production.

Allocate a daily area of a size that cows will graze down to about 1700 to 1800kg DM/ha or 6cm (2.4in). After grazing pastures will be slightly uneven, but all clumps should be grazed lightly.

As a last resort be prepared to do some topping. Top, or bottom, to about 5cm (2in) after grazing. Wherever possible graze the toppings, but be sure to do it the day after the initial grazing to avoid damaging regrowth.

Also consider swapping some silage and grazing areas around. This will give high quality grazing now and when grazing fields have declined in quality and become stemmy, silaging will improve quality for grazing later.

Rather than making silage unnecessarily, do all you can do to encourage cows to eat as much grass as possible. There is no reason to offer any buffer feed at present. If you need buffer, this indicates that first cut was too big, so avoid the same mistake when making second cut.

Keep concentrate feeding to a minimum. For every kg of supplement dry matter that you feed cows at present, they will drop their grass intake by 0.5-1kg. Where is the money in that when grass is there for the eating?

If you are operating a rotational grazing system stick with it. Last year some producers suddenly found themselves back on a set-stocked system after first cut. Rotational grazing will help you cope with drier weather in summer and has huge benefits in autumn. If you quit now, it is difficult to start rotational grazing again mid season.

Grass growth rates on monitor farms have varied in the past two weeks. Some farms have stopped nitrogen applications to reduce growth rates. Silage cutting dates and temperatures are also responsible for some of the variation in grass growth. &#42


Anglesey 107kg DM/ha

Cumbria 77kg DM/ha

Sussex 82kg DM/ha

Pembrokeshire 48kg DM/ha

Staffs 50kg DM/ha

Dorset 83kg DM/ha