22 November 1996

Calf processing

rule upsets NFU

CONCERNS have been raised by the NFU about the effect on future cattle supplies of new calf processing rules, agreed in Brussels last week.

The change extends the scheme to include beef-bred male calves from Dec 1, with compensation introduced at a rate of about £128/head compared with £103 currently paid for dairy-bred calves. (These rates will fall to £121 and £97 respectively in the new year, when the new green £ rate kicks in.)

Widening the schemes eligibility could take too many animals off the market and raise beef finishers input costs, says the NFU. It will, however, give dairy farmers an alternative outlet for their calves and put a bottom in the market.

The new rules should help increase beef prices in early 1998, adds the Meat and Livestock Commission. But economic policy director, Mick Sloyan, said it could compromise future production and, if consumption took off and prices rose, would suck in imports.

Most other member states – typically producing larger quantities of veal than the UK – will implement an early marketing scheme, rather than the widened calf kill. This provides a bonus if animals are slaughtered at less than 85% of that countrys average slaughter weight.n