30 July 2001
Thirty-month scheme restarts

By Alistair Driver

FARMING has taken a step towards normality with the reopening of the Over Thirty Months Scheme (OTMS) for cattle and some livestock sales.

Eleven out of 21 approved abattoirs were set to resume slaughtering under the OTMS on Monday (July 30) for the first time since February.

The scheme, which removes older cattle most at risk from BSE from the food chain, was halted because of foot-and-mouth in February.

Since then, a backlog of up to 250,000 animals has built up across the country causing huge management problems for farmers.

Government ministers gave the go-ahead for a resumption of the scheme a few weeks ago after intense lobbying from farm leaders.

The scheme will, however, take some time to return to full capacity and the National Farmers Union has urged farmers to remain patient.

An upper limit of 8440 has been placed on the number of animals slaughtered this week, said the Intervention Board, which runs the scheme.

Normally over 10,000 older cattle would be culled each week.

The Intervention Board said the biggest constraint to more slaughterings was be the availability of rendering capacity to dispose with dead animals.

The NFU described the resumption of the scheme as extremely good news.

But union president Ben Gill warned that problems were far from over, particularly with the approach of the autumn flush, the schemes busiest time.

“We are extremely concerned that the backlog of animals is reaching a critical level,” he said.

“Even starting now it will be difficult and will require patience on the part of producers to catch up with the outstanding numbers.”

The resumption of livestock sales of cattle across Northern Ireland for the first time since February is another positive sign for farmers.

The Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) said the move is a significant step back to normality for the industry.

But UFU president Douglas Rowe expressed concern for the sheep sector where commercial sales are still prohibited.

The cattle sales “are very important in creating competition for our livestock and they are a very important social event for the farming community”, he said.

“Unfortunately, the time-scale for opening commercial sheep sales is less clear and we will continue to urge DARD to re-open sheep sales.”

The Intervention Board listed 11 approved OTMS abattoirs which would be operating under the scheme at 11am on Monday, 30 July.

The abattoirs are:

  • Beesons (Bradeley Meats), Crewe;
  • Bridgwater Beef, Taunton;
  • Holbeck Holdings, Kilmarnock;
  • F Redfern, Buxton;
  • Madron Meat, Penzance;
  • Matheson Jess, Brechin;
  • RB Elliot & Son, Chesterfield;
  • Woolley Brothers, Sheffield;
  • Orkney Islands Council Cattle Cull Station, Kirkwall;
  • Calf Marketing Services, Co Antrim; and
  • Dungannon Meats, Co Antrim.

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