10 July 1998

Calf scheme question

THE beef industry will be in limbo until producers know the future of the calf processing scheme, claims the UKs largest farmer run-production group.

Nigel Crowe, a director of the Meatgold Group and its chief rearing calf buyer, says the possibility that a calf price crash would follow the winding up of the scheme is making it difficult to plan ahead.

That is discouraging farmers from exploiting valuable support premiums.

He told farmers visiting the groups stand that there could be a shortage of quality beef in 18 months time, but he acknowledged that rearers and finishers were wary about paying £70 for young calves.

To ensure throughput, and to prepare for the lifting of the beef export ban, the group was offering flexible beef management plans to farmers with empty buildings.

"We can supply 100kg reared calves and buy back contracts for when they finished, or provide competitively priced feeds, or just pay farmers for the husbandry involved in finishing calves we supply.

"Any IACS registered arable farm can claim beef special premium on 25 head without forage area, which amounts to a total of £2618.25 for bulls."

Chris Sargeant, Meatgolds sales director, said beef production was being distorted by uncertainty about calf and finished cattle prices. People were also farming the system to get second beef premium rather than marketing cattle when they were in optimum condition.

Notices on the stand emphasised the independence of the farmer run organisation compared with the producer clubs run by Tesco who were located opposite.