BQB keeps its focus set on the bigger picture

Borders Quality Beef (BQB) co-operative, set up after the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak of 2001, has registered as a trading company.

The trading arm of the co-operative supplies finished cattle to a local wholesaler, earning the producers a premium over commerical deadweight prices. This means the finisher earns a bonus, the member who organises the process is paid a fee, and the balance can be ploughed back into helping BQB fund new developments, the organisation said.

The number of cattle sold in this way remains small but the long-term aim is to sell more finished cattle direct and build up a bigger profit which will be distributed among members.

BQB is also looking into a ready-meal venture with Borders hotel, the Cross Keys at Kelso. The idea is to directly market the ready-cooked or ready-to-cook meals made in the hotel's kitchens with the co-operative's beef.

BQB chairmain Jonny McCririck is convinced of the benefits for the group in cutting out waste, and ensuring efficiency. "It shortens the chain between the calf producer and the finisher so the add-on costs are minimised."

The co-operative, formed by members of the Scottish Agricultural College's (SAC) local suckler cow groups, has allowed the members to share their expertise in different areas for the benefit of everyone.

The internal transfers of cattle last year numbered 40 breeding heifers and nearly 400 store cattle. BQB have concentrated on improving each stage of the process with heifer producers concentrating on the better selection of bulls as well as health status screening for major diseases under SAC's premium cattle health scheme.

Store producers have been trying to improve carcase grading by analysing slaughter and price data sent by the finisher. A producer-finisher "retained ownership" scheme is also up and running, whereby store producers are paid a proportion of the carcase value - sharing the risk of the market.

All of this has meant finishers are spending more time evaluating the market and have become major suppliers of prime Aberdeen Angus cross to Dovecote Park and Waitrose.

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