17 January 1996

Selective cull raises

fears

Sourcing suckler replacements, the value of hybrid vigour, cattle traceability and the selective cull, were key issues debated at last weeks British Cattle Breeders Club conference in Cambridge.

Jessica Buss, Sue Rider and Jonathan Riley report

SUCKLER producers fear the selective cull of BSE cohorts could create serious welfare and management difficulties.

Speaking at the British Cattle Breeders Club annual conference at Cambridge, Roland Kershaw-Dalby of the National Cattle Association said the selective cull was likely to start in late February or early March.

This was a concern, with March and April being the busiest calving period for many suckler producers.

"If we take out a lot of freshly calved sucklers we will create welfare and management difficulties," he said.

"Very few farmers have the facility to artificially rear calves on their farms – welfare will be compromised and feed costs increased."

Mr Kershaw-Dalby called for MAFF to postpone the slaughter of these cohorts until their calves were over three to four months old. "This will at least give the calf the chance to become independent of its mother before her slaughter."

Head of MAFFs animal health international trade division, Robin Bell, said he hoped that for welfare reasons dams with calves at foot would not be taken out immediately.

"We wouldnt wish to create a welfare problem."

He said the selective cull could not begin before legislation was passed in parliament. That was expected to happen in late January – with the cull starting within weeks of that date and most cohorts slaughtered within six months.

Mr Bell acknowledged the difficulty dairy producers faced in quota management. "If over-quota producers want animals removed as quickly as possible they could put their case to MAFF for quick attention," he said.

Mr Kershaw-Dalby added that those producers who had leased in quota at 15-16ppl and had not yet used their quota should be allowed to hold on to animals until after Apr 1. Those over quota could send them in earlier – to put some flexibility into the system.

Robin Bell of MAFF:"We wouldnt wish to create a welfare problem."