Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Helping farmers minimise losses to maximise returns

Working with beef and sheep farmers to help them fulfil the potential of their respective enterprises is a key part of EBLEX’s work. Meat inspection has a role to play in influencing margins and the question was raised and debated at our recently-held Processor Conference.

While the conference covered a number of topics, from meat quality to new cuts development, the issue of meat inspection touched on an area where we have undertaken a great deal of work to help minimise losses throughout the supply chain and help farmers maximise returns.

What can farmers do as part of the supply chain to help ensure they reap the rewards of their labour? Concentrating on efficient animal growth, meeting target carcase specifications and minimising the losses of saleable meat and offal are undoubtedly key.

Total carcase rejections can lead to possible non-payment to producers.  Therefore, good stock husbandry, including feeding and health management to maximise quantities of saleable meat, will inevitably pay dividends.

Among the areas to look at include the control of Liver Fluke, parasite infections in sheep and cattle spread by dogs and foxes, abscesses, pneumonia, bruising/trauma and stress. For example, figures for 2012 showed that almost £5 million was lost to the English sheep industry due to 66,500 cases of the parasite Cystercercus ovis, or sheep measles. Similarly, more than £1 million was lost as a result of 742,000 livers being rejected due to Cystercercus tenuicollis, or bladder worms.

Producers also bear the brunt of the impact of Liver Fluke, which estimates suggest causes an annual loss of livers worth more than £1.77 million to the meat trade. The cost to producers for each case of fluke, however, is staggering. On-farm costs are estimated at £87 for each case in cattle and £5.56 for each in sheep – a total on-farm cost to English producers of £25.8 million.

EBLEX’s Better Returns Programme manual ‘Minimising carcase losses for Better Returns’ examines causes of carcase rejections and the financial impact associated with it. More importantly, it offers practical advice and guidance for producers to employ strategies to manage and prevent conditions arising that lead to carcase rejections and impacting on their bottom line.

Ultimately, cattle and sheep sold for slaughter are a food product and have to be passed fit for human consumption. It’s also vital for producers to maximise the full potential of their enterprises. By working with EBLEX to help minimise carcase rejections, the best of both worlds can be achieved.

Presentations from the EBLEX Processor Conference can be downloaded from the EBLEX website.