Damage to hides costs UK £50m a year
HIDE damage on farm and at the abattoir costs the UK livestock industry £50m a year, revealed the British Leather Confederation last week during a seminar on hide improvement held at the Leather Trade House in Northampton.
While worldwide demand for leather increases, only 30% of the 3.25m hides processed annually in the UK achieve top grades.
Tanners looking to make up this shortfall pay a premium of about £15 a hide for top quality European hides. They are, however, keen to secure UK stocks and prepared to offer a financial incentive of between £10 and £15 a hide if producers meet demands. Already a bonus of about £2 a hide is available on barley beef cattle which more often meet tanners criteria.
Scratches are the primary cause of hide damage. As producers are now clipping off dirt, tanners have noticed an increase in downgraded hides due to blades cutting the skin. The alternative – washing off dung – costs about £10 a hide. BLC has found that the average weight of muck on a hide is 3.7kg.
In 1976 up to 68% of hides were damaged by warbles. Now the warble fly has been eradicated and prophylactic treatment is no longer compulsory, hides are being badly affected by other parasites such as mites, lice, and in some cases ticks.
Glaes Gyllensvaan, director of the Swedish Golden Hide Scheme, explained that this difficulty is overcome in Sweden by a compulsory pour-on treatment 12 weeks before slaughter. "Preventative measures such as this are linked to a £12 a hide bonus for our farmers," he said. A tenth more hides achieved a higher grade because treatment resulted in 40% less hide damage.
BLC and Bristol University are currently working on a project to see if treatment for ectoparasites at two months old decreases hide damage at the same time as improving overall performance.
AVOIDING HIDE DAMAGE
• Keep bedding and holding areas clean.
• Use high tensile or electric fencing, not barbed wire.
• Check pens and holding areas for loose nails and broken fencing.
• Treat for ectoparasite infestation.
• Brand vertically on the hind leg close to the tail.
• Vaccinate against ring worm.