NFU Scotland requests clarification over cattle moving

National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS) has announced it will be contacting abattoirs and processors to gain an understanding into “maximum moves rules” in terms of cattle.

Recently, there have been concerns among cattle producers over the decision by some abattoirs to enforce penalties and deductions on the price paid for cattle if they have spent their lives on different farms.

Having contacted the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, it became clear that, within its membership, different abattoirs were deducting different costs for the number of moves.

“It is already apparent that every processor appears to be operating to its own individual standards, hence the need for NFUS to contact all plants to find out just what is happening,” said NFUS livestock chairman Charlie Adam.

In addition, the definition of what consists of a move has not been made clear. Whereas some abattoirs claim it to be a change of ownership, others consider it to be a change of location. This latter definition catches out cattle that have moved from farm to farm, yet stay within the same business.

“First and foremost we need clarity from each processor on its definition of a move. There appears to be two different rules in use – one based on the number of times an animal has changed ownership, the other counting the number of farms the animal has been on, regardless of whether those farms are owned by the same business.”

Recently, red meat processor Dunbia announced that it was to reduce payments for cattle that had been on more than four farms.

Adam called for processors to clearly state the amount of moves that could take place before deductions became active: “We also need processors to clarify how many moves are permitted before deductions and what the level of deduction will be.

“Farmers buying and selling cattle need to know exactly where they stand. We are contacting processors this week to get a clear understanding of each plant’s policy. Given that each processor is taking a different approach, we will collate the responses we receive so that members are in no doubt about any individual plant’s position on this.”

It was highlighted by Adam that the geographical conditions in which cattle are raised in Scotland can result in numerous moves, resulting in unfair deductions.

“The Union’s livestock committee has already discussed this matter and agreed that limiting the number of moves cattle can have before penalties kick in at the abattoir is a worry,” continued Adam.

“Given Scotland’s geography and climate, it is not unusual for cattle to be born on one farm, then moved to another over the winter months to secure the best shelter, then moved elsewhere to graze the next summer. Within Scotland’s traditional systems, the number of movements cattle make can quickly stack up.

“Once we have clarity on the different policies plants have in place, we will be discussing with retailers and processors the effect these rules have on beef farming.”

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