8 October 1999

Calf scheme stalls

DAIRY farmers have given little support to a private scheme designed to take surplus calves off the market while guaranteeing a minimum price.

Anglo Beef Processors and Dalgety Feeds teamed up earlier this year hoping to sign as many as 10,000 dairy bull calves within 12 months to fatten into low grade beef.

Instead, just 600 animals have been put into the scheme, which pays producers 140-142p/kg deadweight depending on the market.

Both companies expressed their disappointment at the figure. ABP said it would purchase its meat elsewhere if no more farmers come forward.

"Were flexible where our meat for processing comes from," said Bob White, group procurement manager, though he would not confirm that imports would be used once intervention stocks were exhausted.

The initiative was launched at the Royal Show after it was confirmed the calf processing aid scheme would end in July. The intention was to fatten bull calves formerly destined for CPAS to produce P and O-grade cattle for manufacturing beef, most of which is imported.

Bob Beavan of Dalgety Feeds said he believed farmers had been put off because they had too few forage units to claim beef special premium payments, crucial to make a profit at the proposed price. ABP also wants to charge farmers £10.50 to slaughter each calf.

MLCs Duncan Sinclair agreed, but added: "It could be that producers are not familiar with dealing with contracts for stock; for others it will be their first move into finishing and achieving technical and specification targets is equally as important as qualifying for BSP. It will be tight."

With premium on bulls worth £104/head next year, eligible farmers achieving the right performance could make as much as £70-80 per animal, claimed Mr Beavan.

He reckoned Dalgety needed 5000 new calf contracts within the next few months to satisfy ABPs demand for finished animals. &#42