Unwanted bull calves prompt crisis meeting
EMERGENCY talks were held in London yesterday (Thur) in a bid to find a solution to the growing problem of what to do with worthless Holstein bull calves.
Producers dumped unwanted calves in phone boxes and town centres over the past week to draw attention to falling prices, much to the dismay of NFU leaders who believed the action would damage the image of the farming industry in the minds of the public.
As a result, NFU president, Ben Gill, called an emergency summit meeting yesterday, involving the RSPCA and a number of industry bodies including the British Veterinary Association and the Livestock Auctioneers Association. The union is particularly concerned that the problems producers face will intensify over the coming weeks as autumn calving gets underway.
Mr Gill held crisis talks earlier this week with Meat and Livestock Commission leaders to discuss the impact on the industry of the closure of the calf processing scheme and to review what progress was being made to establish new markets.
Before yesterdays meeting, Mr Gill said: "The desperate situation in the calf market is adding enormous pressure to a sector already reeling from significant cuts in milk prices and the misguided and misconceived criticism from the MMC investigation into milk selling.
"As autumn calving peaks arrive, it will become even more imperative that there is short-term government action."
At the very least, a government scheme to slaughter unwanted calves at no cost to farmers was needed until alternative markets could be found.
The NFU is continuing to press farm minister, Nick Brown, to seek EU Commission approval to allow live calf exports to resume. The union is confident that conditions could be applied to the trade to ensure that British calves were group-reared abroad rather than being sent to veal crates. It also believes, after discussions with Continental dealers and producers, that BSE controls, such as ensuring that the dam of a calf going for slaughter was still alive and had not contracted BSE, could be applied if MAFF co-operated with those rearing the calves.