9 February 1996

Drugs tests at sales soon?

RANDOM drug tests on pedigree cattle could become routine at top sales, according to the National Cattle Breeders Association.

The tests will look for illegal growth promoting hormones and evidence that highly strung animals have been "doped" to make them appear calm.

NCBA secretary, Rowland Kershaw-Dalby, said testing did not imply that the use of illegal drugs was widespread. Rather tests could be used to reassure customers that the animals they were buying were "clean".

But drugs that affected animals temperaments were being used in Britain, he admitted. "We dont think it is terribly widespread but we are determined to stamp it out."

The Charolais and Limousin breed societies had already implemented their own schemes to check for drugs and to ratify that birth dates and parentage matched those declared by breeders.

David Benson, chief executive of the British Charolais Cattle society, denied that there was a problem of drug abuse in the breed. The testing scheme would give buyers confidence.

Charolais society sales generated an annual turnover of £6m, and the £30,000 a year cost of the scheme was certainly worthwhile.

He dismissed rumours that some animals sold at Perth last year had been given illegal growth promoters. He said one bull, from Ireland, had been the source of much gossip. But a drug test at the new owners request had proved negative.

Shelley Wright

Drug-testing could become routine at top sales, including Perth. But breeders say that drug abuse is definitely not a widespread matter.