5 March 1999

FABBL spot-checks to improve scheme

SPOT-CHECKS are being introduced in farm assurance standards for beef and lamb in efforts to ensure credibility and attract more producers into the scheme.

More rigorous policing is part of a revised Farm Assured British Beef and Lamb package announced last week. It is the first assurance scheme to operate to Assured British Meat standards and supply ABM certificates.

From Apr 1, FABBL will spot check 10% of its members within 14 days of notifying them they have been selected, as well as continuing annual inspections. Despite extra visits, membership fees of £85 for joining and £75 for subsequent years remain the same and it hopes to freeze these for 2000/2001.

Speaking at the meeting, FABBL chairman Ian Frood said that spot-checks and seasonal 18-month surveillance visits would give the organisation teeth. "There will be no fudging of farm assurance status as this is unfair on members."

Producers are also encouraged to source store and breeding stock from farm assured holdings. When this is not possible, cattle must be kept on farm for an extra 20 days, 90 in total, and lambs on FABBL members holdings for 60 days.

But this time period can be shared across more than one holding as long as all are current farm assured members. This includes the national assurance schemes in Scotland and Wales.

Responding to charges that this increase was inadequate, Mr Frood said: "Until assurance covers the whole chain from birth to slaughter it is a halfway house solution.

"However, at the moment 90 days for cattle is an achievable and deliverable period."

FABBL chief executive Phillipa Wiltshire said that members would not experience a greater workload complying with new standards.

"The standards are based on existing ones, although there will be more emphasis on record-keeping for feed products."

It will now be a requirement for members to maintain feed records, either invoices or delivery notes, for up to two years.

Closer ties with Assured British Meat is behind FABBLs drive to recruit an extra 12,000 members in 12 months, particularly from store and smaller producers.

According to Mr Frood, the tie-in with ABM gives FABBL the credibility its been looking for. This should attract beef and lamb producers to participate in the scheme and retailers and caterers to purchase farm assured meat.

"We have to deliver sufficient farm assured product to the consumer, including caterers. Where we can persuade meat purchasers to become committed to farm assured products its more difficult for them to source meat from abroad." &#42

NEWSTANDARDS

&#8226 Spot-checks introduced.

&#8226 Keep feed records.

&#8226 Closer to ABM.

Sieving out the best from the rest… Keith Blenkiron (right) who farms at Lark Hall Farm, Northallerton, North Yorks, is this years winner of the Maize Growers Associations national forage maize competition announced at its conference at Stoneleigh, Warks, last week. He grows 40ha (100 acres) of maize to feed 320 beef cattle through to finishing. Full report on the MGA conference next week.

Conference on lameness

DONT miss the opportunity to attend the first National Cattle Lameness Conference at Stoneleigh, Warks, on March 16. Speakers at the day-long event will give a practical guide to dealing with lameness on-farm, which is estimated to affect more than 59% of an average herd to some degree over a 12-month period.

As well as giving advice on tackling the concern, speakers will consider the cost of lameness and how to set up and use a lameness scoring system on your farm.

Attending the conference costs £59 plus VAT, which also includes lunch, tea, coffee and delegate papers. A 10% discount is given for groups of four or more. For further details, contact Agricultural Conferences and Events (01797 223626, fax 01797 225458). &#42

Trait improvement without profit loss

INCORPORATING traits to achieve longevity and improved health in dairy cows does not necessarily mean a loss of profit by sacrificing production potential.

That was the opinion of dairy cattle geneticist Jennie Pryce of SAC, Penicuik, Midlothian, when she addressed a meeting of north-west dairy farmers.

"It is possible to improve production and at the same time make genetic progress on health and fertility.

"The rate of progress in terms of production will be less but the overall profitability is increased if there is a broader selection objective," Dr Pryce told members of the North West Dairy Forum organised by the University of Liverpool.

She told farmers that the new Productive Life Index, which replaces ITEM, aims to improve longevity of dairy cows. Research at Langhill and elsewhere has confirmed that selection for production alone does have a detrimental impact on fertility.

"PLI will address this head on by providing producers with indices for life span as well as cell count," said Dr Pryce.

She told farmers that there was a strong genetic relationship between somatic cell count and mastitis. A bulls lifespan index of +0.5 suggests that daughters will add an average half a lactation on to their life span.

Dr Pryce has undertaken a detailed study of the links between somatic cell count and the incidence of mastitis. Access to data from DAISY has proved that a close relationship exists.

"Combining somatic cell count into the index as an indicator of mastitis is an effective way of genetically reducing the risk of mastitis problems. Mastitis as predicted by somatic cell count is a future index candidate for PLI." &#42

Poor quality silage

affecting finishing

POOR quality forage on-farm means that many cattle will fail to finish this spring, and producers are urged to take action now.

"Last years appalling summer resulted in poor silage," warns SAC beef specialist Basil Lowman.

"On some farms, producers have realised just how bad their silage is, and have supplemented rations with 2kg concentrate a day to maintain target growth rates. However, where rations depend largely on silage, low energy levels and poor intakes have had a severe effect on performance."

According to Dr Lowman, cattle fed on poor quality silage will not finish. "Decide now whether animals are likely to finish or not, and group them accordingly.

"Where cattle are unlikely to finish, cut their rations so that they are either leaner when they go to grass and have the potential to finish, or can be sold as stores."

Cattle with finishing potential should be taken off silage, aiming to finish them in June using an ad-lib barley beef ration, he adds. &#42