The UFU Beef and Lamb Committee recently met and as per usual a wide range of issues were covered at the meeting.
The Red Tractor consultation on proposals to introduce lifetime assurance for beef has proved a hot topic of debate over the last number of months all over the UK.
The NI Farm Quality Assurance Scheme holds equivalence with the Red Tractor assurance scheme, with NI red meat being marketed as Red Tractor once it reaches Great Britain.
The UFU has unanimously rejected the proposals which have been made by Red Tractor, citing concerns about the additional cost and bureaucracy this would add to farms in Northern Ireland as a major issue. Members of the Committee were also greatly concerned that Red Tractor has provided no evidence as to how a lifetime assurance approach is something customers actually require or even if it would be financially beneficial to farmers. The Committee agreed that Red Tractor would be far better focusing on the existing high standards and assess how these could be better communicated with consumers.
Cattle ID Cross Compliance has remained high on the agenda for the Committee. Members were angered when DARD introduced a threshold of 10% or 20 missing tags which would be allowed at inspection. With DARD of the view that there would be a breach if anyone was over this threshold, the UFU has persisted with attempts to have this threshold removed. To date DARD has offered to relax this threshold; however the Committee has agreed that this is still unacceptable and that the UFU should continue with attempts to have the threshold removed completely and instead bring NI into line with the rest of the British Isles where there is greater flexibility.
Members have noted concerns recently about the over-zealous approach being taken by some DARD vets operating in local meat plants on the welfare of animals presented for slaughter. Members have argued that some of these vets are demonstrating a clear lack of experience with on farm situations. UFU Office Bearers recently met DARD to discuss this matter and have lobbied DARD to review their current procedures in the meat plants. This included greater equality for farmers in any appeal process which may take place as a consequence of a suspect incident.
The Committee also discussed the beef market intelligence information that is currently available to farmers. Members highlighted that there can be considerable difference between the quotes offered by meat plants and what they are actually paid. The Committee has identified that the UFU should monitor the quotes vs prices paid and where possible identify for members that there is more that can be gained from the market place by shopping around and bargaining hard.
An update was also provided on a recent meeting held with Asda in relation to lamb promotion. It was explained that Asda were seeking to improve sales and consumption of local lamb and they are developing a new product and packaging range to help assist with this.
Asda has requested that the UFU take part in a joint campaign to promote local lamb and the Committee agreed that this was a positive initiative which should be supported.
Other areas covered included the future of AFBI, Angus Cattle Schemes and environment and animal health matters.
The Committee were also made aware that producers needed to be careful when finishing store lambs as we are aware that recently batches of bought in store lambs were condemned because they had not completed withdrawal periods for Closantal and others which had been contaminated by tapeworm which can be picked up from dogs.