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Warning of ‘alarming’ cull cow disposals

Cull cow numbers in the last three months are cause for ‘real alarm’ says SAMW, warning that calf numbers next spring will show another severe reduction.

“According to current figures, cow cull marketings in Scotland were 20% higher in the last three months than in 2010,” said SAMW president, Alan Craig. “This is a serious reduction in production potential at a time when calf numbers are already tight.

“Prompted by reports from SAMW member companies of excessively high cull cow numbers this autumn, we asked Quality Meat Scotland to check the figures and their report is alarming in terms of what we can expect in 2012.  The latest evidence is that GB now has a pool of breeding cattle some 100,000 head smaller than at this time last year.

“Taking an ultra optimistic view of that statistic, producers may be replacing breeding cows sooner than normal due to the recent strength of cull cow prices. That would eventually produce a boost in productivity, potentially lessening the long-term impact on calf numbers.  However, our belief within SAMW is that we’re seeing another real decline in breeding potential which will have an immediate impact on calf numbers next spring and, most likely, a continuing impact thereafter.

“We warned in 2003, and take no delight in reminding industry now, that decoupling farm support from production would result in a decline in breeding numbers. The recent surge in cull cow marketings has removed another 3% of production capacity from the Scottish herd. That’s on top of a calf registrations figure which fell by 8.5% in Scotland between 2003 and 2010 and by 11% at a GB level in the same period.   You can play around with individual points about a differing balance between the number of beef and dairy calves being produced, but the bottom line figure is, and I repeat, alarming.

“The theory when decoupling was agreed was that the market would re-balance according to supply and demand.  Not only has that not happened, the situation is actually being compounded by the parallel increases in cull cow values proving irresistible to many producers.  We’re losing critical mass as an industry and that is very bad news from everyone involved in the Scottish meat chain, from farm right through to the consumer.”