25 July 1997




Frome, Somerset


David Lock

(Premier Livestock Auctions)

CHAOS once again dominates the BSE cull, following the Interven-tion Boards announcement that it plans to slash compensation rates.

So says David Lock of Premier Livestock Auctions, who has seen the proposed cut in compensation from Aug 4 spark a rush to get cows killed before then.

But the reduction in the number of abattoirs involved has made getting slots almost impossible, he says. The backlog of cows on farms is building up daily. "Its a return to the bad old days of last year."

The planned 560kg upper weight limit on compensation will also hit farmers hard, with this taking effect at the same time as payments are lowered from 64.9p to 57.7p/kg.

"If cuts had to be implemented, I feel that farmers would rather have seen a reduced rate of p/kg compensation, rather than a weight limit. This will hit suckler producers – and about 50% of old barren cows weigh over 600kg liveweight, too."

There are also welfare issues. "Now, the danger is that feeding may be minimised in a cows final lactation to save costs. They could end up looking like hat racks."

It is, says Mr Lock, another example of the IB implementing changes without consulting enough with farmers and auctioneers who are, after all, on the front line.

Last year, the IB tried to ban markets which auctioned cows from acting as collection centres. "Thankfully, sense prevailed – and this did not go ahead."

With the latest changes very much Treasury-driven, there seems little prospect of any reversal of the proposed changes set for Aug 4, he says.

Meanwhile the weekly auctions of barren and grazing cows at Frome have virtually ground to a halt. Only those desperate to sell animals are advised to do so. "In view of the difficulty of getting stock into abattoirs, buyers have to be certain of having an outlet."

Such auctions are of big benefit to farmers with a build-up of animals, says Mr Lock. "Theyre a safety valve, allowing stock to be moved off farm."

The biggest auction of such cows at Frome saw 262 cows from 130 farms go through the ring, worth £109,000. And since "Dorrell Day" – Mar 20 last year – Mr Locks sold more this way than any other auctioneer in the country.

Once the current backlog is cleared, abattoirs could find themselves short of numbers, so the auctions might take off again.

"The IB, meanwhile, has increased the kill by some 20% this week, and is now allowing a maximum of 15 animals per producer – so this might help slightly. Mean-while we will continue struggling to find slots for the animals on my books."

That means not only badgering the local abattoirs, but also looking farther afield. "Theres no reason why stock from this area has to be killed locally. Animals can go anywhere – as long as the haulage complies with the new transport regulations.

"They could, in theory, go from here to Orkney, as there is a designated abattoir there – but hopefully that wont be necessary," says Mr Lock.n

"BSE cull in chaos again."

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