12 April 1996

Hogg amends plans to age by teeth only

By Shelley Wright

FARM minister Douglas Hogg has reacted to the farming industrys outcry (News, Apr 5) over his plans to determine the age of cattle only by their teeth.

After meetings with the industry, Mr Hogg said last week that he was amending the beef (emergency control) order to allow cattle to be aged either by their teeth or by "reliable, independently verifiable documents". That would allow steers to be aged by their cattle identification documents.

He believed this would remove the main cause of uncertainty among farmers and would help restore the flow of cattle through auction markets and to abattoirs.

New BSE rules banned animals over 30 months from the food chain. MAFF decided this age limit would be determined by teeth and that any animal showing signs of more than one pair of permanent incisors at slaughter would be deemed unfit for human consumption. But farmers and industry leaders were outraged because some cattle could cut their second pair of teeth as young as 21 months. And they said that MAFFs decision would unnecessarily remove up to 30% of prime beef from the market.

Mr Hogg also announced further moves last week to help the industry cope with the continuing lack of consumer confidence in beef. He said that government would:

lConsider quality assurance schemes that identify BSE-free herds.

lConsider setting up a national database in order to trace animal movements.

lImmediately relieve slaughterhouses still killing cattle from last years Meat Hygiene Service charges and extend that relief for a temporary period.

lAppoint accountants Coopers and Lybrand to quantify the difficulties facing the slaughtering industry. &#42