19 November 1999

Dairy producers in dark over slaughter premium

By Emma Penny

WITH less than two months to go before the new cattle slaughter premium kicks off, there are still no scheme rules or literature available from MAFF, which could lead to widespread confusion, warns the NFU.

Dairy producers in particular could be at risk of misunderstanding the system, due to start on Jan 1, warns NFU livestock policy advisor Carol Lloyd. "The slaughter premium is based on IACS rules, with which many dairy producers will be unfamiliar.

"The problem is that we cant pre-empt the rules, so no-one knows what their obligations are under the scheme. We know some details, but they may be subject to change."

Cattle must be retained on-farm for two months before premium, worth about £17/head, can be claimed. Payment will be in two instalments – 60% paid between August and, at the latest, October, with the remaining 40% paid before the end of June the following year. This will allow for potential scale-backs if a UK ceiling, probably based on 1995 numbers, is breached.

Slaughter premium can be claimed on prime finished cattle. But there are concerns if live markets are involved, as slaughter premium can only be claimed by the vendor when the animal has been killed within one month of being sold (see Stock and Sales).

It can also be claimed on adult cattle over 30-months-old, and in this case, will be administered by the Intervention Board. But producers must remember the two-month retention period, says Ms Lloyd. "This is a month longer than the OTMS scheme requires."

Producers can also claim slaughter premium on veal calves. Calves up to three-months-old must have been retained on-farm for one month; those from three to seven-months-old for two. However, the scheme is only available for animals going direct for slaughter at an abattoir, and a weight limit of 160kg applies.

In all cases, cattle must be fit for human consumption, says Ms Lloyd. Producers can submit a maximum of 12 claims a year, but there is no ceiling for numbers on individual claims.

She also warns that Meat Hygiene Service staff will be required to check cattle and note their kill number in the abattoir. Costs could be passed back to producers, she warns.