11 February 2000

FIGHTING AGAINST ODDS…

Rather like predicting the winning numbers in the national lottery, making money from cattle has never been an easy task.

Thats certainly the case for hard-pressed dairy producers who seem to face ever-escalating challenges, the most difficult of which is making any profit at all at an average milk price of 17.6p/litre.

Beef producers, too, still face difficulties. France and Germanys continuing ban on British beef is a persistent thorn in our side, and one which wont be easily removed.

For both sectors, sterlings strength – and the euros weakness – are compounding difficulties.

But despite these concerns, the cattle industry continues to embrace change and technology.

Sexed semen is likely to provoke major change in the dairy industry – and a faster rate of genetic progress. But it will have knock-on effects on other industry sectors, as one expert in this supplement predicts.

Technology in the shape of electronic tagging, has also come to the forefront. Scottish producers will find out whether or not they are likely to have to electronically identify cattle within the next fortnight or so. But is tagging the best option? Theres a ready debate about the issue, covered in this supplement.

Whatever happens, both electronic identification and sexed semen are likely to bring changes to the industry – hopefully for the better. Secure knowledge that a high merit cow will produce a heifer, and being able to prove traceability to beef buyers can only help to improve the odds on making better returns.