Millions lost from renew oversights
By Simon Wragg
LOSSES running into £ millions are being incurred each year by producers overlooking the renewal of farm assurance scheme registrations, suggest industry figures.
Auctioneers, abattoir operators and meat traders are concerned at the amount of stock being sold at a discount because of incomplete assurance documents.
"It can be a particular problem for finishers," says Mark Brandon of Derby-based Eaton & Hollis auctioneers. "Those buying stores from non-assured holdings are required to keep them a full 90 days before slaughter if they want to take advantage of the market. In finishing terms that is a long time.
"I can see the argument from producers who only sell a few cattle each year and consider the £100 fee for farm assurance as an extra, unwanted cost. But more and more buyers are looking to take only assured stock and some farmers will have to come round to recognising that," he adds.
Although averages differ, a 5p/kg premium can be achieved for store cattle with a valid assurance registration, he suggests. For a beast weighing 300kg liveweight that is worth £15/head. Combined with Livestock Auctioneers Associations figures which suggest 1.2m store animals (including some dairy cattle) were sold at auction last year, the potential losses to the industry could run into £ millions.
Industry figures suggest about 70% of finished cattle and just half of all prime lambs are covered with a farm-assured ticket. Bob White, group procurement manager for beef processor ABP, suggests seasonal or occasional suppliers must pay the most attention.
"Regular suppliers now tend to sign up as a matter of course. We can encounter problems when buying through markets, but auctioneers are picking up on that. It can be worth an extra £50-60/head in some cases."
Philippa Wiltshire, chief executive of Farm Assured British Beef & Lamb, suggests one-in-five farms currently overlooks renewal of its registration before the expiry date each year, although half of these tend to complete within three months. "There are clear market benefits to renewing on time which is encouraging more producers to do so."
Lapses – even for those intending to re-register – can lead to stock being undervalued. "Typically it can take 7-10 days to get the new stickers, used by producers when selling farm assured stock, through the post. But if re-registration lapses for three months it can take about six weeks for the on-farm inspection to be completed before a farm can rejoin," she adds. *
(Left to right) Joe and John Smith-Jackson accept the Hexham championship ticket from Fiona Ross of the Royal Bank of Scotland.