Slaughter scheme halts price slide

30 March 2001

Slaughter scheme halts price slide

By James Garner

THE introduction of the welfare slaughter scheme, to move animals caught up in foot-and-mouth restrictions, has put a floor in the livestock market, at least halting the downward slide of beef and lamb prices.

Prime beef cattle eligible for slaughter on the scheme are worth 80p/kg liveweight. Hoggets have a ceiling value of £45, or 120p/kg liveweight up to that figure.

Hogget finishers are receiving slightly better quotes from the trade this week, with average prices about 200p/kg dw for R3L grade lambs.

Producers speaking to FW this week have noted the improvement, but say that in many cases they are still better off selling to the welfare scheme if they manage to get any stock in to it.

Woodhead Bros in Colne, Lancs, are quoting between 200-210p/kg dw. Managing director John Woodhead adds that the welfare scheme is helping push prices up.

Cig Mon Cymru abattoir in Wales is offering 210p/kg dw this week and is expected to raise this next week.

Beef prices are still showing a wide variation across the country and prices offered are complicated by dressing specs and other charges.

One trade insider alleges that some abattoirs are charging producers to handle cattle. One apparently charges £32, effectively taking 10p/kg off the deadweight price.

Average values are about 165p/kg dw for R4L grade steers, although Robert Forster, chief executive of the National Beef Association, says producers should shop around.

Meanwhile, the Meat and Livestock Commission is yet to respond to the NBAs call for reform of its price reporting.

According to the NBA, UK producers would benefit from a similar system to that in Ireland, whereby reported prices for each abattoir are made public in the trade Press.

The foot-and-mouth crisis has left producers in a price fog, with little transparency.

"The MLC cant hide behind this," says Mr Forster. "There is no transparency at the moment and it is the only organisation that has the resource and knowledge to provide clear prices."

Martin Grantley-Smith, head of government relations at the MLC, says it uses a sample of abattoirs each week.

"The point is that figures are authenticated by Brussels. We would be reluctant to publish a price that has not been authenticated." &#42

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