NFU North West Livestock Board Chairman Bill Mellor gives an insight into the headline issues affecting an important sector of North West agriculture.
In autumn the finished lamb trade was slightly better than in 2017 with the current live-weight 180p/kg and dead weight 399p/kg trade holding firm in the run-up to Christmas. Autumn breeding sale values were well down on last year, most likely due to effects of weather over last 12 months and uncertainty over Brexit and future trade.
Autumn finished cattle trade was lower than last year with no lift in price seen prior to Christmas. The GB prime price currently 355p/kg dead-weight is 11.5p down on last year. Autumn cull cow trade was much lower than last year, currently 200p/kg dead-weight which is 31p down on last year. Supplies of cows are much higher than demand, possibly due to farmers reducing numbers because of low fodder supplies.
Livestock Information Service
The LIS is progressing with agreements between AHDB and Defra. Tenders are out for IT suppliers. This service is supposed to launch at the end of 2019 for cattle.
Livestock Productivity Scheme
This is being developed by the NFU Livestock team to help support farmers when area based basic payment scheme reduces from 2020 and finishes in 2027. Preliminary discussions have been had with Defra.
NFU North West Livestock Board Chairman Bill Mellor
The levy body has requested views from the industry and we have responded. The livestock board asked for more promotion of beef and lamb, more accountability to levy payers and the beef and lamb board. In my opinion AHDB is very poor in supporting industry currently with no communication on climate change and UK red meat production, which is being hammered in the press.
Ageing finished lambs
Finally, after at least 10 years of lobbying, Defra has agreed lambs will not be mouthed until after a cut-off date of 30th June and don't need to be split before this date. This saves the industry millions of pounds and time.
Sheep carcass classification
Defra recently consulted on this and all of the NFU asks were included and agreed on. Defra has accepted the need for a standard dressing specification for lambs, price reporting based on this specification from abattoirs processing more than 1,000 lambs per week, classification using EUROP grid, end of rounding down weights and all processors must publish T & Cs and deductions.
The issue of whole life assurance is still being discussed.
The Godfrey report was published and was reasonably balanced but very poorly covered in national press with farmers being blamed. Culls in Cheshire and Cumbria have been successful.
The RDPE funded BVD ‘Stamp it Out’ campaign take up has been fantastic. Nearly all the budget has been provisionally allocated and more than 7,500 farms have signed up. I hope the delivery goes just as well.