23 January 1998

Incisor teeth take bite out of sheep value

SELL hoggets before their incisor teeth erupt, or their value could be halved.

So says Welsh exporter Edward Hamer, in the face of SRM rules which require the removal of the spinal cord from sheep over a year old.

Customer resistance to sheep treated in this way, both at home and abroad, is increasing. "Many customers are refusing to take any split carcasses and we have already stopped buying ewes. Lambs showing teeth will not find a market, or will be very heavily penalised."

After Apr 1, new inspection charges and paying for the disposal of SRMs could add £4.50 to the cost of processing a lamb, adds Mr Hamer. It will be impossible to pass this on to price-conscious domestic consumers and will further toughen the sterling-hit export trade.

"From April we will have to pay £15.17/hour for extra Meat Hygiene Service technicians and pay the full cost of SRM disposal. A proposal from the EUs Standing Veterinary Committee means this could include 25p a lamb for intestines that until recently were worth 75p as sausage casings."

At present, French abattoirs pay only 18p to dispose of offal from a lamb compared with £1.50 in the UK, says Mr Hamer. "We are not competing on level terms, so it is small wonder that a number of British exporters are looking at the idea of buying or leasing French plants and shipping lambs live for slaughter there." &#42