Representatives of UK unions meet to discuss the livestock industry

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The UK and Irish Farming Unions have recently met in Cardiff to discuss matters facing the livestock industry.

Representatives from NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland, Irish Farmers Association and the Ulster Farmers’ Union were in attendance. Following the meeting, representatives visited the St Merryn processing plant at Merthyr in South Wales to view their processing facilities and discuss issues currently affecting the food supply chain.

There is no denying that 2014 was a very difficult year for many livestock farmers with considerable losses incurred due to a major downturn in the beef market. Over the last number of months however, beef prices having improved markedly.

Where 2014 seen a situation where there was an oversupply of cattle in the British Isles, statistics from each of the regions suggest that supplies will tighten in 2015.

This combined with beef shortages on the global market and expectations that new markets will open up for red meat from the British Isles, representatives are optimistic that the red meat trade will deliver improved returns in 2015. Representatives also agreed that if the supply chain wanted the raw materials to supply their orders, better prices and longer term signals on specification were required if red meat production is to be sustained.

The challenges of CAP reform were also on the agenda. It was clear that a variety of different decisions have been taken across the British Isles. Each region has experienced difficulties and frustrations while trying to shape a CAP system that will help underpin productive agriculture.

With all regions moving to flat rate payments, similar to England which moved through this process ten years ago, there were concerns that livestock numbers could decline further unless a more sustainable price was received from the market.

A discussion around disease control and how different regions were tackling TB and other production related diseases was also discussed.

Representatives from the IFA were quick to stress the importance of tackling TB in both wildlife and cattle and that the Republic of Ireland programme had reduced TB levels considerably and lessened the burden for farmers trying manage their herds.  They were also seeing good progress with their BVD eradication scheme.

It was noted that the EU Commission was increasing pressure on DEFRA to take further action against wildlife spreading TB and it was agreed pressure should be applied on all UK Governments to ensure that the disease is tackled properly.

The meeting was concluded with a visit to the St Merryn processing plant at Merthyr in South Wales. This modern plant takes in livestock from all over the UK and representatives from the Unions were given an opportunity to view the various production techniques to improve the marketing of red meat to the consumer. 

A further discussion with the St Merryn management covered a number of issues such as the implementation of sheep EID technology in processing plants, the potential of VIA grading machines to assess carcase meat yield and the work they are doing to improve the relationship between processor and farmer.

Foster Ewe and Lambs

With the Lambing season for 2015 is to begin over the next number of weeks, for those who may require a foster ewe or lamb, please access the Farm Link website, http://www.farm-link.com/adopt4.htm.