By FWi staff

STOCK locked in foot-and-mouth surveillance zones finally started moving into the food chain this week.

The new controlled movement scheme, launched on Monday (23 April), allows disease-free animals to be transported, under license and after an on-farm vet inspection, to abattoirs within the same surveillance zone.

According to Meat and Livestock Commission estimates, 10-15% of pigs have been tied up in these zones, 25% of cattle and about half of the lamb supply.

Although it is early days, initial signs are encouraging. John Walsh, operations director at Hamer International, Llanidloes, Powys, one of the first abattoirs to use the scheme, describes it as a huge relief.

“For the past five weeks we have been operating at 20% of normal. Now we are back to 80% on both sheep and cattle.”

Trading standards and vets have pulled out all the stops to make the scheme work, says Mr Walsh. “They have ensured we got back to some form of normality.”

Hamers is paying 220-235p/kg dw gross for hoggets, and 265p/kg for good spring lambs.

Steers are worth 170p/kg dw for the supermarket trade, the same as pre-disease levels, and about 160p/kg for other markets.

Deductions remain at pre-foot-and-mouth levels, says Mr Walsh.

Prices vary widely across the UK, says one trade source.

Deadweight prices for R4L steers range from 162p/kg to 172p/kg depending on an abattoirs location.

Regional volatility has been stoked by the fluctuating foot-and-mouth status of varying areas. Ironically, abattoirs in restricted zones are better off because they can take animals from anywhere.

Abattoirs in disease-free areas are restricted to clean regions. John Woodhead, of Blackburn-based Woodhead Brothers, says he is maintaining throughput, but it is not easy. The firm is paying 172-174p/kg for R4L steers.

According to the MLC, by the end of last week, cattle prices rose 0.7p to average 172.2p/kg gross for R4L steers, while R3L hoggets gained 9.4p to 219.5p/kg.