Hard Choices Looming over Taking Older Beef to Market

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 14, 2006 | Go to article overview

Hard Choices Looming over Taking Older Beef to Market


Beef producers have faced many challenges over the years. More recently, some of the issues associated with BSE and the measures of traceability of animals have resulted in producers having to spend much more time in the office.

It would be wrong to expect the forthcoming removal of the Over Thirty Months Scheme would change any of that. In fact, with an additional 90,000 tonnes of beef to be released onto the UK market place over the next three years, beef producers will probably need to spend more time in the office, marketing animals and attending to business costs.

From January 23, producers will be faced with a challenge for their older stock - 'do I submit to the beef market or utilise the new Older Cattle Disposal Scheme?'

The new scheme will initially have a flat rate payment of pounds 360 per head for animals presented, thereafter reducing each year by 10%, until the scheme closes in January 2009.

Producers will have to decide whether a better return could be gained from animals being presented to the scheme, or presenting to the market. This will be hindered initially with a lack of comparative data from the marketplace for these animals. With no robust comparative system available for older animals currently entering the live market, producers will have to be well aware of local markets and have a realistic appraisal of the quality of their animals.

Not all abattoirs licensed to slaughter and process older animals are involved in reporting of prices - only six of the 22 licensed do so. To ensure best returns, producers will need to be in contact with the abattoir to have full knowledge of prices before presenting the animals, or making the decision to put the cattle onto an 'improver' ration before presentation for slaughter.

Since November 7, when older cattle were permitted to enter the food chain, the numbers marketed increased steadily to 3,000 per week leading up to the Christmas period. If numbers continue rising, the opening of the export markets and the UK securing European markets will be essential.

While UK suckler and dairy cow numbers may have fallen over the past five years by 4%, productivity gains have ensured beef production within the UK has increased by 16%. …

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