6 June 1997

Trade distorted by calf scheme

MARKET distortion caused by the export ban and calf slaughter scheme has turned calf auction rings into depressing places half empty of dealers.

So says Carmarthen market auctioneer Huw Evans, who claims that professional dealers are "bored out of their minds" without the challenge of identifying – and competing for – the best calves for export and rearing.

The whole calf market is being underpinned by the slaughter scheme, which has already taken 576,246 dairy bull calves and 35,825 beef animals. Thats currently about 7000 a week.

Dealer Nigel Crowe, managing director of Cwmnant Calves, Tregaron, Cardiganshire, says that he knows of six dealers who have ceased trading during the latest beef crisis.

"Very few calves are reaching auctions anyway, and the whole trade is being distorted by the slaughter premium."

False floor

"The killing price, which even applies to little Jersey bulls that used to make £3 a head, has put a false floor in the market, which is too high if finishers have to live with a return of 90p to 95p/kg.

"It has made beef cross calves too expensive for farmers who used to rear them to 12 weeks for sale to finishing units.

"Someone has to do something to restore market balance, and this probably means reducing the slaughter payment to reflect what is happening in the beef industry as a whole," says Mr Crowe.