Calf trade awaits end of CPAS

By Peter Grimshaw

AS the last minutes of the Calf Processing Aid Scheme tick by, the industry has finally accepted that there is no hope of its resurrection.

Auctioneers expect to work very hard after 1 August to dispose of the expected flood of poor, if not useless, animals that will be penned.

No-one cares to comment on welfare aspects of a situation economically stacked to encourage milk producers to dispose of valueless animals inside the farm gate.

Meanwhile, prices have been maintained at recent levels, even though an overall drop might be expected in just a few days.

“Ive been quite pleased with the number of people round the ring (at Gloucester), for this time of year,” comments John Pullin. “The effect has been minimal, so far.”

This week he sold best Continental bull calves to £200, medium quality bulls at £120-135 and plain Limousin or Belgian Blue crosses at around £70. Best Friesian bulls were £40-50.

After 1 August he expects the latter to drop by about £10/hd from this price. “Theyll have to be special to fetch £50.”

Commentators are predicting a two-way split in beef production after that date.

On one hand, existing beef producers will continue to finish high-potential calves under traditional systems for the quality buyer.

On the other, many of the better dairy and dairy cross calves that would otherwise have been swallowed up by CPAS will be reared – 600,000 to 700,000 is the best guess.

They will require specialised, low-input systems and will need to be committed to buyers who have the volume and variety of outlets to take the best, rear end cuts, plus a range of catering and processing customers to buy the remainder.

What worries the trade is the almost inevitable increase in beef inseminations to dairy cows that will produce crossbred calves with deceptively reasonable looks but low potential.

Many of these will find their way into fattening units and ultimately to the consumer. It is feared that no matter how well they are done, such animals will dilute the quality achievements of recent years.

“The Friesian Holstein is a totally different animal,” says Brian Pack, of Aberdeen & Northern Marts. “Once it has been disguised with beef bull semen, thats when quality will suffer.”

He believes that it is better for the industrys sake that dairy bulls are used, allowing buyers to assess the resulting bull calves on their true potential, and to devise systems and establish markets for the resulting product.

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