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Rising cattle prices highlight stock specification issues

SAMW issued a pre-Highland Show message to livestock farmers to re-sharpen their focus on making sure cattle are finished for sale as perfectly ‘in spec’ as can possibly be achieved.

“The livestock on display at the Highland are always a tremendous example of the quality which is available within Scotland and the cattle finishing and presentation skills of which so many producers are capable,” said SAMW president, Alan McNaughton. “Unfortunately, we don’t always see the same quality finish and presentation skills being applied to the stock arriving at abattoirs, which is a persistent frustration for our member businesses and has costly implications for all concerned, farmers included.

“The Scotch premium remains an important part of our business but you have to earn the right to that premium, especially when cattle prices are rising. We want cattle to be between 280 and 380 Kilos, and to satisfy the relevant fat and age criteria. Farmers who don’t deliver according to those requirements will obviously not be paid as much as those who consistently provide ‘in spec’ stock.

“The real problem goes deeper than that, however, inflicting ‘knock-on’ trading negatives for the whole industry by reducing the total volume of premium product our members can offer to the UK, EU and global market. That, in turn, makes us a smaller player in the international marketplace than we should be, especially when you see the stock on show at the Highland.

“We can definitely punch above our weight on quality in the global marketplace but, at present, we’re punching well below our weight on quantity, with persistent specification problems adding to the industry’s pressures.”