By Vicky Houchin
A PRIVATE scheme designed to take surplus calves off the market while guaranteeing a minimum price for producers has failed to win the support of farmers.
Anglo Beef Processors and Dalgety Feeds teamed up earlier this year in the hope of signing up as many as 10,000 dairy bull calves in the schemes first twelve months.
But organisers of the scheme, which promises to pay producers 140-142p/kg deadweight depending on the market, have so far signed for only 600 animals.
Both companies expressed their disappointment at the slow take-up rate and ABP said it would purchase its meat elsewhere if no more farmers come forward.
“Were flexible where our meat for processing comes from,” said Bob White, group procurement manager for ABP.
Mr White declined to comment on the possibility that the company would turn to imports once intervention stocks were exhausted.
The initiative was launched at this years Royal Show after it was confirmed that the government-funded Calf Processing Aid Scheme (CPAS) would end in July.
The aim of the project was to take bulls reared from calves formerly destined for the CPAS to produce P- and O- grade beef cattle for manufacturing.
“Considering all the hype weve had nothing like the interest we though there would be,” said Mr White.
“Even the NFU has sat back and complained of what everyone was not doing but they havent come up with anything.”
Part of the problem, however, appears to be that ABP wanted to charge farmers £10.50 per animal to slaughter the calves.
At that rate, slaughter costs and haulage would have rendered the scheme unprofitable for many producers.
Bob Beavan of Dalgety Feeds said he believed farmers had been put off the scheme because they had too few forage units to claim the Beef Special Premium subsidy.
Keeping the animals for a year would push many producers beyond the maximum stocking density for claiming the premium which is worth £128 next year.
But farmers who could keep the animals while remaining eligible for the BSP could make as much as £70-80 per animal, claimed Mr Beavan.
Dalgety estimates that it needs 5000 new calf contracts within the next few months to satisfy ABPs demand for finished animals.