Scottish beef farmers urged to remain positive

The over-supply of cattle in Scotland has been described as a “short-term blip” by president of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) Alan McNaughton.

The Scottish cattle industry has suffered from an over-supply of cattle over the spring months, causing pressure on prices and marketing delays according to the National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS).

The NFUS has said this meant average steers weighing 600kg, when they entered the supply chain, were reportedly worth £120 per head less than last year.

Talking at the annual SAMW conference, McNaughton said foreign exchange rates and compressed calving patterns over the whole industry created the “significant, but I believe, relatively short-term blip”.

Meanwhile, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland Jim McLaren has urged Scottish beef farmers to remain positive, and not to be distracted by factors which the industry has no control.

McNaughton went on to say that if more export opportunities were available, the over-supply might not have been so severe.

“The short-term blip we’ve seen this spring may not have been so severe if we’d been able to expand our export market in recent years. As it was, our inability to wholeheartedly pursue new export opportunities in the past, due to tight supplies, left us with nowhere to go during March and early April,” he continued.

McNaughton said developing export markets would be crucial for the Scottish meat industry going forward. “There is no doubt Scotland could be a bigger player on the world stage, especially with the IS market starting to open, and we’ve heard about the Far East. International buyers like our product and would take more. They are not interested in fluctuating supplies. However, Scottish meat exporters cannot afford to target overseas business without a solid, and competitive, supply base on which to build.”

Moreover, McNaughton said another lesson to be learned from this blip was that processors and producers who deal with each other on a regular basis needed to communicate more about their product to make it 100% “fit-for-purpose”.

“It has to be as perfectly ‘in spec’ as can possibly be achieved,” he said. “Ideally, we want cattle to be between 280kg and 380kg, as well as meeting fat and age criteria. Many farmers get it right, delivering a quality ‘in spec’ product time and time again. Those who don’t, however, are wasting possibly their resources and adding cost to all our businesses.”

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