18 September 1998

Low risk beef contracts for the right producers

FARMERS with suitable buildings and cattle finishing expertise are being offered low-risk beef production contracts.

Meatgold Quality Assured Beef, which is based at Daventry in Northants, claims producers can earn at least £11,160 over approximately 12 months by finishing 90 male animals.

The income consists of £104 a head beef special premium payment and £20 a head lairaging fee. Farms eligible for extensification payments will collect an extra £28 for each finished animal.

The company, which pioneered the use of cattle passports for traceability, will supply three-month-old calves at current prices. To claim premiums, farmers must own the cattle while they are on the farm.

However, these will be bought back for the same price at the end of the finishing period. The feed is supplied free by associated company Berrystock, and Meatgold will be responsible for marketing.

The company can also finance calf purchases at what it describes as "a very competitive interest rate", with repayment due at the end of the feeding contract.

Nigel Crowe, managing director of Cwmnant Calves, Tregaron, which supplies reared calves to Meatgolds existing finishers, said the new scheme was one way feeders could avoid the risks and vagaries of the beef market.

Minimal risk

"It is simple, provides certainty of income and involves minimal risk," he claimed.

Meat and Livestock Commission economist Duncan Sinclair said the scheme was an interesting idea for reducing the risks of beef production where no additional labour was needed.

"The £20 lairage fee will cover veterinary and medicine charges so, providing there are suitable buildings and no extra fixed costs are involved, the appeal of the scheme depends on how the feeder values his labour," said Mr Sinclair. &#42

Robert Davies