29 November 1996

EUcalf scheme – big long-term beef problem…

Technical innovations aplenty competed for attention at this years bustling Smithfield Show. We start with livestock issues, continuing with arable on p66 and machinery on p67-75.

THE extended EU calf processing aid scheme will affect the quality of UK beef well into the next millennium.

By including beef crosses in the EU scheme up to 750,000 calves a year could be taken off the market, easing beef surpluses in the short term. But it is ill-conceived in the long term, beef consultant David Allen said at the show.

"That will compromise the British producers ability to improve cattle conformation and meat quality and hence the chance of increasing consumption by improving meat quality."

The EU agreed to keep the calf slaughter premium for dairy bull calves at 120 ecu ( £103/head). But a new rate of 150 ecu (£128/head) was agreed for non-dairy breeds, which can be slaughtered under the scheme from Sunday.

"The calf aid prices are set too high and at current prices will take out Angus, Friesian, Hereford, and the lower end of the Belgian Blue and Limousin cross Friesians," said Dr Allen.

"That will increase calf, price which will either put pressure on producers margins, or if passed on to the retailer will increase the cost of beef. Consumption – the very element we should be looking to increase – will fall."

As an alternative, he said, a form of cow beef scheme should have been introduced to take older cattle and those with poorer conformation off the market.