By FWi staff

SUCKLER beef producers might have to consider imported commercial females to make up herd numbers this year, as there could be a shortage of replacements.

MAFF has already considered the implications of importing breeding females as part of its re-stocking assessment, but the National Beef Association would prefer to see farmers restock with UK-bred cattle.

George Richardson, who runs 480 suckler cows near Ashbourne, Derbyshire, said importing replacements had been discussed in a recent NBA meeting with MAFF.

“The NBA reckons there will be a shortfall of about 18,000 suckler females, but from an animal health point of view we would prefer cattle to be sourced from the UK,” said Mr Richardson.

Robert Forster, NBA chief executive, said it was difficult to assess if there were sufficient numbers of beef bred females to replace those lost because of foot-and-mouth.

“Based on MAFF figures, the crisis has accounted for about 100,000 suckler cows and the annual number of female replacements is 190,000.

“The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers has recently said it believes there are enough dairy cattle in the UK to replace those lost through foot-and-mouth.

“I would like to say the same about suckler cows, but it is just not possible to do so.”

The NBA said it was aware that substantially fewer heifers had been sent for slaughter in recent weeks.

“We must assume that beef finishers are siphoning heifers off with the intention of selling them later as replacements.

“While their quality will be an issue, I feel it is better for them to be sold as potential breeding stock than not at all.”

Robert Addison, of Harrison & Hetherington, said he had received enquiries about replacement females, but was unsure what they would be worth.

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