SAMW warns of high cull cow disposals

High cull cow disposals are a cause for ‘real alarm’ for the meat industry, according to the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW). The association warned that calf numbers have declined significantly since last year and predicted that next spring will show another severe reduction.

“According to current figures, cow cull marketings in Scotland were 20% higher in the last three months than in 2010,” said SAMW president Alan Craig. “This is a serious reduction in production potential at a time when calf numbers are already tight.”

Evidence from Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) suggests that the pool of breeding cattle is 100,000 head smaller than at this time last year. Calf registrations fell by 8.5% in Scotland between 2003 and 2010 and by 11% at a GB level in the same period. The recent surge in cull cow disposals has removed another 3% of production capacity from the Scottish herd.

“Producers may be replacing breeding cows sooner than normal, due to the recent strength of cull cow prices. That would eventually produce a boost in productivity, potentially lessening the long-term impact on calf numbers,” said Craig. “However, our belief within SAMW is that we’re seeing another real decline in breeding potential, which will have an immediate impact on calf numbers next spring and, most likely, a continuing impact thereafter.”

Craig blamed some of the decline on the decoupling of farm support from production. “The theory when decoupling was agreed was that the market would re-balance according to supply and demand,” he said.

“Not only has that not happened, the situation is actually being compounded by the parallel increases in cull cow values proving irresistible to many producers. We’re losing critical mass as an industry and that is very bad news from everyone involved in the Scottish meat chain, from the farm right through to the consumer.”

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