By Vicky Houchin
FWi markets editor
FEELINGS ran high at the Royal Show as producers began debating the options open to them once the Calf Processing Aid Scheme ends.
Dairy farmers are worried they may have to shoot new-born calves, after farm minister Nick Brown confirmed the scheme would end on July 31 .
Despite the expectation that beef exports could resume within weeks, producers warned that the market for bull calves was still far from buoyant.
Dairy breeder Garry Manning from Romney Marsh, Kent said he has no option but to shoot them at birth because he cant afford to ear tag them at £4/calf.
"If we kill them before they get any life its not cruel. Its when people wait until they are a week old that its cruel," he said.
And breeder Roy Bailey from Knutsford, Cheshire, described the end of the CPAS scheme as devastating news.
"Were Jersey producers and they wont be worth anything."
Similar feelings of despair were evident among other show exhibitors, although many have yet to decide what action to take.
"I just dont know what to do," said Peter Berresford from Buxton, Derbys. "Ill have to either extend the fattening unit or sell them." Like other producers, Mr Berresford expects calf prices to stay low.
Although the RSPCA said it did not believe farmers would actually shoot their calves, there was no argument against the practice if it was done humanely.
"Its a cry for help, and quite rightly so," said Vince Cartledge, operations manager for the organisations Freedom Foods scheme.
The Meat and Livestock Commission warned that many producers would find themselves in a quandary over the schemes end.
MLC chairman Don Curry said there was genuine concern among producers that they could be left with worthless calves. These could drain farm businesses of much-needed funds, and beef farmers are questioning the viability of rearing male calves, he added.
Meat processing company ABP and feed giant Dalgety have joined forces in an attempt to guarantee a market for finished bull beef when the calf scheme ends.
Richard Cracknell, managing director of ABP, said his company hoped to source between 50,000 and 60,000 of the 500,000 extra cattle forecast to come on the market.
ABP will offer a contract price on the P- and O-grades on a cost-plus basis locked in from the birth of the beast, he said. The ABP scheme will aim to supply the manufacturing market.
It is estimated that up to two-thirds of the calves currently being slaughtered could be suitable for the ABP/Dalgety Bull Beef Scheme.
Although Mr Cracknell refused to say what base price would be offered, he said the price would have to be enough to attract producers into the scheme.
He also admitted it would be harder for ABP to deal with producers who are unable to claim payments under the Beef Special Premium Scheme.
Greg Planter, joint managing director of Dalgety Feed, said he would be looking for cattle fed on an intensive bull beef diet and slaughtered up to one year old. *