By James Garner

COLLECTION centres set up to allow farmers to pool small consignments of stock at one site before movement to abattoir are expected to be approved at Fridays stakeholder meeting (11 May) after consultation with industry.

Peter Scott, director general of the British Meat Federation, said: “Our first priority is eradicating foot-and-mouth.

“But we are happy as long as MAFF can give us assurance that it is safe to move animals to collection centres.”

He stresses these centres will only be collection points for animals and not a move towards auction markets.

Whether animals can be sorted into grades and quality when they arrive at collection points is a moot point.

The Livestock Auctioneers Association believes there is good reason to sort stock.

But the BMF views this as opening the door for auction markets return.

LAA chairman Peter Kingwill said: “Our involvement is commercial. For a commission fee we will negotiate between abattoirs and farmers.

“Why should all the benefits go back to the purchaser? Some reward should reach producers.”

Small-scale sheep and cattle farmers will be the biggest beneficiaries.

Under present arrangements small and remote farms cannot afford to sell stock because haulage is too costly.

From this point of view, slaughterhouses, which want throughput, and farmers are set to gain, says Phil Henshaw of the Meat and Livestock Commission, which will administer the scheme.

“The main service will be to those producers who have a small number of lambs or cattle that will not make up a lorry load.

“If we can consolidate loads then it will make it more economic.”

Farmers with a few hoggets will hope that collection centres are up and running quickly. Most are now cutting teeth and losing value.

Prices for old-season lamb fell last week to 180-200p/kg dw.

Typically, prices for new season lambs are ranging 260-280p/kg dw, but are selling for 30p/kg less where demand is slack, says Suffolk-based Hill Farm Sheeps Peter Crichton.

Further north at Woodhead Bros, in Colne, Lancashire, commercial director John Woodhead says new season lambs are in demand, but some supplies are still tied up in restricted areas.

“We want to source lamb from these areas but cant until MAFF lifts the restrictions.”

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