Desperate dairy producers to shoot calves as CPAS ends
By Vicky Houchin
FEELINGS are running high at the Royal Show as farmers debate the options open to them once the Calf Processing Aid Scheme finishes at the end of this month
Livestock farmers are worried they may have to shoot new-born calves, after agriculture minister Nick Brown confirmed the scheme would end on 31 July.
The aim of the scheme was to take excess bull calves off the market when the beef export ban was imposed in the wake of the BSE crisis.
Despite the expectation that beef exports could resume within weeks, producers today (Tuesday) warned that the market for bull calves was still far from buoyant.
Dairy breeder Garry Manning from Romney Marsh, Kent said he has no option but to shoot them at birth because he cant afford to ear tag them at £4/calf.
“If we kill them before they get any life its not cruel. Its when people wait until they are a week old that its cruel,” he said at the Royal Show today.
Breeder Roy Bailey from Knutsford, Cheshire, agreed, describing the end of the CPAS scheme as devastating news.
“Were Jersey producers and they wont be worth anything,” he said, adding that only thing to do was hit them on the head and put them in a big pit.
Similar feelings of despair were evident among other show exhibitors, although many farmers have yet to decide what action to take.
“I just dont know what to do,” said Peter Berresford from Buxton, Derbyshire. “Ill have to either extend the fattening unit or sell them.”
Like other producers, Mr Berresford expects calf prices to stay very low, and has problems seeing an end to the problem.
Only yesterday, the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) warned that many producers would find themselves in a quandary over the end of the scheme.
Speaking at the Royal Show, Don Curry MLC chairman said was genuine concern among producers that they could be left with worthless calves.
These could drain farm businesses of much-needed funds, and beef farmers are questioning the viability of rearing male calves, he added.
The meat processing company ABP and the feed giant Dalgety have joined forces in an attempt to guarantee a market for finished bull beef when the calf scheme ends.
Richard Cracknell, managing director of ABP, said his company hoped to source between 50,000 and 60,000 of the 500,000 extra cattle forecast to come on the market.
ABP will offer a contract price on the P- and O-grades on a cost-plus basis locked in from the birth of the beast, he said.
It is estimated that up to two thirds of the calves currently being slaughtered could be suitable for the ABP/Dalgety Bull Beef Scheme.
Unlike cattle produced specifically for the retail beef market in the E-, U- and R-grades, the ABP scheme will aim to supply the manufacturing market with P- and O-grades.
ABP will use the cattle from this scheme at its Wessex Foods processing plant, but also claims to have supermarket interest.
Although Mr Cracknell refused to say what base price would be offered, he said the price would have to be enough to attract farmers into the scheme.
He also admitted it would be harder for ABP to deal with farmers who are unable to claim payments under the Beef Special Premium Scheme.
Greg Planter, joint managing director of Dalgety Feed, said he would be looking for cattle to be fed on an intensive bull beef diet and slaughtered up to a year old.
“There will be little or no commercial benefit for producers to feed them on from this point,” he added.
“It is expected that dairy farmers, cereal producers and even disillusioned pig producers with empty buildings will consider a system which will be bankable.
“For the first time, the final producer price and most input costs will be known at the outset.”
Sir David Naish, a director of Assured British Meat and non-executive director of the Dalgety Group, said the industry must quickly face up to the influx of calves.
“The ABP/Dalgety scheme will help UK Beef plc to replace imports and depleted intervention stocks in the manufacturing sector.”
Cry for help
The RSPCA said it did not believe farmers would actually shoot their calves, adding that there was no argument against the practice if it was done humanely.
“Its a cry for help, and quite rightly so,” said Vince Cartledge, operations manager for the organisations Freedom Foods scheme.
- Brown confirms end of calf scheme, FWi, today (06 July, 1999)
- Government to back British beef, FWi, yesterday (05 July, 1999)
- Dont be stuck with valueless calves, warns MLC, FWi, 04 July, 1999
- Industry split over end to calf scheme, FWi, 01 July, 1999
- Farmer in lone London protest, FWi, 30 June, 1999