8 March 2002

Farm collection centre promises a better deal

By Robert Davies Wales correspondent

A PEMBROKESHIRE farm has been licensed to operate a primestock collection centre in association with a west Wales meat company.

Brian Ratcliffe and his father George, who each operate independent farming businesses, have invested almost £30,000 in penning and vehicle washing facilities on land attached to Colby House, Whiston, near Haverfordwest.

The site is 100m from land or buildings used by farm livestock. It operates on a deadweight basis handling finished cattle and lambs, killing ewes and over-30-month scheme (OTMS) cows.

Farmers supplying stock are paid current prices offered by Oriel Jones and Son, who operate an abattoir 45 miles away at Llanybydder.

However, while the plants cattle line is being refurbished, cattle are being killed at Rose County Foods in Lancs, which is also part of the Dungannon Meat Group. Older cattle going for destruction are killed at a specialist abattoir in Llanelli.

Producers pay set charges that cover use of the centre, the cleaning and disinfection of vehicles, and haulage to point of slaughter.

These stand at £11/head for OTMS cattle and £1/head for prime lambs and barren ewes. The charge on prime cattle is £14/head to Lancs, but this will fall to £10/head when they go to Oriel Jones.

"We promise to get the best possible deal for customers from buyers and have made it clear that we will try other abattoirs if we are unhappy with prices or service," says Mr Ratcliffe.

"The chain has become too long, with stock travelling too far and too many people taking a cut."

Mr Ratcliffe, who finishes around 300 store cattle and 2000 store lambs/year at nearby Slebech Park and is NFU county branch chairman, adds:"Farmers need to be able to choose how they market livestock.

"We hope to provide a high standard of service that brings more money back to producers who want to cut the costs of using auctions, but do not want to deal directly with abattoirs." &#42