14 April 2000

Weight decision could take time

INTERVENTION Board officials have repeated the warning that the proposal to ask for the maximum weight ceiling to be eased on the over thirty months scheme for dairy cows and beef cattle could take some time to resolve.

Numbers forwarded on to the scheme have fallen 2000 head in the last week, but it is almost impossible to decipher how much of the fall is directly related to the attempt to have the 560kg maximum weight limit on which compensation is paid lifted, say IB staff.

Last week 12,400 cattle (down from 14,900 a week earlier) were projected to have been sent through the scheme against a weekly limit of 15,900 head.

As a consequence of the announcement, auctions have seen OTMS numbers drop off.

Colchester, Essex-based Tim Brassington says part of this fall is seasonal. "Its a new milk year, there are more suckler cows now in retention for subsidy, but there may be some producers holding cows back. The likely cost of feeding stock to increase killing weights is unlikely to pay much more than the compensation."

Also, with another cut in the OTMS payments for April – which follows the £s strong performance last month – cow values are currently down to 48p/kg or £268/head and beef animals to 54p/kg or £301/head. "That is the problem; farmers are always going to be fighting against the value of sterling," adds Mr Brassington.

IB officials warn holding cattle in the hope of taking advantage of the weight ceiling being removed will be a non-runner for some producers. At present up to 50% of all stock fail to meet the 560kg restriction.

The earliest response to the governments call to have the limit lifted is expected to be early next month. &#42