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CATTLE

27 December 1996

CATTLE

"THE year after BSE". That is how cattle farmers regard 1997.

But the crisis is by no means over. The year opens, for example, with no prospect of any immediate resumption of exports.

The two key factors, therefore, in determining demand will be domestic consumption and intervention, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission.

Consumer confidence has partly recovered from the all-time low to which it sank.

But the processing sector remains badly hit.

And 1997 will see more cattle destined for the food chain.

An 8% rise is likely to take the total to 2.32m head, with the over-30-month kill expected to account for 65,000 prime cattle, compared with this years figure of 300,000.

The bulk of these will be heifers – some retained for breeding and found not to be in-calf; others excluded from the food chain due to the dentition rules.

Limiting slaughterings, however, will be the continued contraction of the breeding herd, as the effects of genetic and management improvements are felt.

Together with the recently announced selective cull, the result could be another 4% contraction in 1997.

Also impacting upon supplies – especially in the second half of the year – will be the calf slaughter scheme.

Over 600,000 calves – of which one-sixth could be beef types – could be killed under the calf processing scheme in the year ahead.

Overall, however, there will be a return to a more traditional marketing pattern. And so price trends will probably be more predictable.

Averages are expected to spend much of the coming year in the 100p-105p/kg range, according to the MLC. The second and final quarter will mark the high points, when up to 110p/kg could be seen.

Returns will suffer slightly, however, as the basic rate of beef special premium falls £5 to about £83 a head.

And the basic rate of extensification payment will be £2 less at £29.

Theres the intervention "market", too. This year it took 37,400t from Great Britain and a slightly smaller amount from Northern Ireland. Such amounts could be repeated next year.

Overall, "selective" will probably be the best way to describe demand. For farmers producing young bulls – for which there is a more limited choice of outlets than steers – this is particularly true.

Finding a market before you produce the animal will never have been better advice than in 1997.

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CATTLE

13 December 1996

CATTLE

NON-DETECTION of oestrus is still the biggest single cause of infertility, according to the Royal Vet Colleges Tony Andrews.

That emphasises the need to check for oestrus, and heat detection can only be carried out satisfactorily when cattle are not distracted by bedding, feeding and tractors.

"It does need time, at least 20 minutes for each period and ideally at least three times a day, including during the evening," he says.

All staff should be experienced in heat detection and record bulling cows, then report to one person in charge of fertility. Tail paint and heat mount detectors may help observations, he adds.

And the seasonal rise in cows calving highlights the need to watch for whites which can hit fertility, claims Cumbrian vet Neil Frame. "If this is a herd problem check cows have adequate trace elements, especially copper, selenium and iodine," he says. "Any mineral deficiencies must be corrected."

When whites is occurring in individual cows, he suggests targetting potential animals for vet inspection. High risk animals are those that have difficult calvings, dead calves or retained cleansings.

Cows torn inside during calving should be seen by the vet immediately and given antibiotics. &#42

CATTLE: WATCH FOR

&#8226 Increasing lameness.

&#8226 Loss of condition from poor nutrition.

&#8226 Respiratory problems with weather changes.

CATTLE

NON-DETECTION of oestrus is still the biggest single cause of infertility, according to the Royal Vet Colleges Tony Andrews.

That emphasises the need to check for oestrus, and heat detection can only be carried out satisfactorily when cattle are not distracted by bedding, feeding and tractors.

"It does need time, at least 20 minutes for each period and ideally at least three times a day, including during the evening," he says.

All staff should be experienced in heat detection and record bulling cows, then report to one person in charge of fertility. Tail paint and heat mount detectors may help observations, he adds.

And the seasonal rise in cows calving highlights the need to watch for whites which can hit fertility, claims Cumbrian vet Neil Frame. "If this is a herd problem check cows have adequate trace elements, especially copper, selenium and iodine," he says. "Any mineral deficiencies must be corrected."

When whites is occurring in individual cows, he suggests targetting potential animals for vet inspection. High risk animals are those that have difficult calvings, dead calves or retained cleansings.

Cows torn inside during calving should be seen by the vet immediately and given antibiotics. &#42


CATTLE: WATCH FOR


&#8226 Increasing lameness.

&#8226 Loss of condition from poor nutrition.

&#8226 Respiratory problems with weather changes.

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CATTLE

29 December 1995

CATTLE

FINISHED cattle prices in 1996 look set to be slightly below this years levels.

In mid-December values stood at about 118p/kg. But this figure – only slightly down on that of 12 months before – conceals a volatile period in the beef market.

Contrary to the seasonal norm, prices had firmed in the autumn, taking the November average to nearly 126p/kg.

Then came the BSE publicity.

Values fell sharply in the final weeks of 1995 and the issue looks set to continue influencing the trade in 1996.

Some producers have postponed marketings and this backlog could weaken trade in the New Year.

The traditional spring peak may also be less marked, with more marketings of 12-month animals at this time following a shift to spring-calving among suckler herds.

The Meat and Livestock Commission predicts 120p to 122p/kg could be reached, with the traditional seasonal pattern being followed thereafter.

Helping to support values, meanwhile, will be a reduction in clean cattle slaughterings of about 1%.

Cow cullings are also likely to be 8% less than in 1995. But ongoing rationalisation of the dairy herd – with producers encouraged by high quota values to leave the industry – could take slaughterings to 730,000 head.

Overall, beef and veal production is expected to fall back about 3% to 965,000t. The trend towards heavier carcass weights will continue, however. In 1995, the norm was 303kg; two years before, it had been 11kg less.

Exports, meanwhile, should continue strong. And the reduction in UK beef intervention stocks (now virtually empty) will further shore up trade.

Also supporting prices will be the EU-wide situation, with total beef production likely to show only a small rise of 0.5% to 8.09m tonnes.

Beef special premium is expected to rise from £86 to £93, and suckler cow premium should also increase 8% from £114 to £124 due to green £ devaluations. The extensification premium will go up from £28 to £31.

Higher grain costs, meanwhile, could impact adversely on returns, particularly on barley-beef units. And margins may also be squeezed following the high prices paid for store cattle in recent months.

The decline in the breeding herd size, combined with a strong calf export movement, will contribute to a continued tight availability of stores.

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