13 August 1999

PREMIUM FOR ASSURANCE

BUYING farm assured stores can generate a premium for finishers as some buyers move away from non-assured animals.

Harold Norris, who farms in partnership with his brother-in-law, Derek Bridges, on the 142ha (350 acre) Home Farm at Bold, Merseyside, is FABBL registered and has been generating a premium of 2p/kg for finished animals.

The unit is all indoors in purpose-built or converted yards. Stores are bought in at between 250 and 320kg and stay on the farm for around six to seven months. Heifers are sold to a private butcher at up to 450kg and bulls go through the market at around 500kg.

"FABBL registration makes a difference. There are definitely buyers who will not bid for non-assured stock and, when the market is tight, you cant afford to exclude any potential bidder. And with a premium at around 2p a kg on a 500 kg beast that is beginning to add up to real money," says Mr Norris.

"But the real problem we face is the lack of farm-assured stores. We would always prefer to get our stock from a FABBL farm but there arent always enough to go round.

"I would encourage more store producers to join the scheme because I can see the day when our buyers are going to want guarantees that the animal has been on a FABBL, SQBLA or FAWL assured farm all its life."

One aspect of farm assurance is the regular FABBL inspection. The partners suggest helps them check that their systems and practices are kept up to scratch.

"It is a very practical inspection. We talk around the whole unit, talking to the inspector, getting his views and discussing practical ways in which we can make or introduce new ideas while still staying within the standard requirements."

Mr Norriss view is borne out by Peter Phythian, his FABBL inspector and local MLC Livestock Officer.

"Some local markets in the north west are reporting premiums of up to 4p a kg for farm-assured cattle over non-assured. At that rate, just four animals pay for the FABBL registration fee. It is good commercial sense. But we do need more store producers to join the scheme. Now that the 90-day residency rule has been introduced, finishers really have to buy assured stores to maintain their flexibility," said Mr Phythian. &#42