By FWi staff

THE National Beef Association (NBA) has pledged its support for a switch to an all-Britain-based price report system for prime cattle from auction markets.

Currently live prices in England and Wales are listed against outdated and virtually meaningless weight categories, claims the NBA.

Although markets in Scotland have adopted quality reports for live animals the scheme has still to be strengthened through objective auditing and the establishment of a universal standard.

At present it is extremely difficult for finishers to compare the prices realised in deadweight and liveweight sectors, said NBA chairman, Robert Robinson.

“There is an urgent need for them to be helped by providing the means of making more accurate assessments on a like basis.”

This would include the introduction of a classified-based system in which live prime cattle values were reported against well-demarcated carcass quality bands instead of weight.

The NBA believes farmers anxious to determine which selling system gives them the best return have to be able to make useful comparisons.

“This is virtually impossible at present because the weight-based reports used by most marketers offer no help whatsoever when it comes to contrasting the realisation values of supermarket-grade cattle sold deadweight, with a similar type of animal offered live,” said Mr Robinson.

“However, if the prices of the supermarket-style cattle sold at auction were presented in well-flagged quality bands, it would be much easier to measure like against like.”

According to the NBA, the key to the establishment of a much-needed quality based price reporting system for live cattle will be the enthusiasm of auctioneers from around the country.

It is already accepted that every feeder and finisher will be put in a much better position if live and deadweight prices can be contrasted on a quality basis, said Mr Robinson.

“So we have no doubt they will recognise the wisdom of funding a training programme for liveweight assessors and financing an auditing system to establish a coherent national standard,” he added.

“At present, quality beef-rearers are jumpy about the impression these will make on the market but, if their poor quality is seen by everyone to be firmly linked with bottom-rung pieces, then there will be even less danger of top-notch animals being devalued