2 March 2001

CALF GROUP WARNING

DOUBTS over the profitability of rearing plain dairy-bred calves are leaving the UK beef market wide open to imports, the head of a national calf marketing group has warned.

Peter Hambleton, managing director of Warks-based Quality Calves, told the co-operatives annual general meeting there had been a sharp rise in the slaughtering of valueless calves by the group last year.

"We have a shortfall of 120,000t/year in beef and yet 100,000 bull calves are being slaughtered in the UK because finishers think they will not make money. But few have costed it out.

"We either do something about it or continue to cull calves which currently have little value and give the industry away to overseas competition," warned Mr Hambleton.

For the financial year to Jun 30 last year Quality Calves turnover rose to £4.27m (up 16%) but additional costs and a fall in calf values meant a loss of £31,000 was recorded – the first in its 19-year history – against profits of £8000 in 1999.

Numbers traded also rose to 46,500 (up 22%), but that was overwhelmed by a fall in calf value from £96.75 to £90.48/head for the financial year; largely due to the ending of the calf processing scheme.

Other factors had to be taken into account. After the merger with Mid West Calves extra costs were incurred. The co-op now plans to move more tasks to computerised systems, so reducing expenditure, said Mr Hambleton. &#42