Increasing the value of leather

By developing a long-term relationship with abattoirs, farmers could improve returns from hides and skins, said Paul Pearson from the UK Leather Federation at this week’s Beef Expo.

“If farmers improve the quality of their hides and skins and develop their relationship with abattoirs, there is potential to see the benefits.

“The key is to keep the supply chain as short as possible and look to develop longer term relationships and contracts between farmers, abattoirs and tanners or hide trades. It is important to improve communication up and down the supply chain.

“We should also aim to build into the arrangement some reward for improved quality.”

Hide quality is determined by what damage it has received in its lifetime or at slaughter.

“Overall, the quality of UK hides is relatively good, but there is still a significant degree of damage that reduces value,” said Mr Pearson. “The overall loss in value in UK hides and skins from farmer to tanner is about £30 million/year”

Damage can be prevented by avoiding using barbed wire, removing nails projecting from pens, dehorning calves and incoming stock and treating cattle against ectoparasite infection.

But, it is difficult for a farmer to assess how much he is getting for a hide because he does not see the money directly. The price he gets for a carcass will include the price for the skin which will be worked out on a national average basis.