11 April 1997

Calf scheme aid cuts demanded

CALLS are mounting for cuts in calf slaughter scheme payments.

The NFU and the Livestock Auctioneers Association say the scheme, for which all animals between seven and 20 days old are eligible, is giving calf prices an artificial floor.

In doing so, it is driving up open market values and, with beef prices still in the doldrums, threatening already-tight margins.

After the latest green £ revaluation at the end of March, compensation rates are now pegged at £111 and £89 for beef and dairy animals, respectively.

Auctioneer Keith Rose at Northampton called it a "false prop". He would like to see an across-the-board compensation rate for all animals.

"In the past, rearers had to compete with the export trade; now, they are competing with the slaughter scheme," said Mr Rose.

Continental bull calves that are now making about £120 should then come back to £70 or £80. "And a few more might be enticed to rear calves, helping to reduce the chances of a beef shortage." Criticisms have also been levelled that the UK is bearing the brunt of a supposed EU-wide beef supply-limiting measure.

By Mar 21, the UK had slaughtered over 500,000 calves. The next highest figure was in France, where latest data to the beginning of March show 159,000 animals killed. Kate Trotman of the NFU said: "Beef is a European issue. We do not want to see the UK being responsible for the re-alignement of the whole European beef market.

"We were opposed to extending the scheme to beef breeds," she added. "But with the scheme now operational, the compensation should be at the same level as for dairy breeds." &#42