SBA clash with NBA's slaughter age proposals

    6th October 2020

    PROPOSALS TO slaughter cattle younger to reduce the livestock industry’s carbon footprint have been met with consternation amongst beef farmers in Scotland.

    The National Beef Association is proposing an environmental tax on animals killed over 28 months of around £100 per head, suggesting that early slaughter would free up more land to increase domestic production and reduce reliance on imports.

    The Scottish Beef Association told The SF that it was not consulted on the NBA proposals and that in the past few days, two board members have threatened resignation if they come to fruition.

    SBA chair, David Barron, indicated that early responses from members were very negative and added his own personal concerns: “We do not want to risk discouraging breeding by putting another hurdle in front of farmers. I sometimes have a bulling heifer that doesn’t hold, but I would still have time under the current slaughter rules to put her away and produce a very good product.

    “We need to be encouraging people to keep cows,” he stressed, adding that although cattle killed over 28 months will apply mostly to breeders in the likes of Devon, there are certain native breeders in Scotland and organic producers who would be penalised by the plans.

    The NBA’s Jude Capper claimed that cutting the age of slaughter from 30 months to 28 months would be a ‘win-win’: “It is more cost effective for producers as they don’t have to maintain cattle for an extra two to three months.

    “It will lower our carbon footprint because of earlier slaughter age but more importantly if we slaughter animals earlier we free up feed and grazing resources so we can produce more beef with a lower carbon footprint,” she said Ms Capper, adding that increasing domestic supply would curb reliance on imports.

    The reduction is proposed in two stages, dropping from 30 to 28 months by August 2023, and to 27 months by August, 2025.

    Ms Capper added: “This doesn’t mean putting every finishing animal on to corn, it means doing everything better so all producers out there can have better health, better welfare, better growth rates all the way through and therefore finish those cattle earlier.

    “We accept this wouldn’t fit for every single system but it is about bringing that average age of slaughter down, which will naturally bring our carbon footprint down. It is not about taking cattle off pasture but doing everything better.”

    Mr Barron disagreed: “You cannot get a beast away in 12 months without giving it grain, it is impossible. These proposals have been driven by supermarkets – they have taken down our weights and now they are trying to reduce our culling window, this isn’t going to drive efficiency, it will just produce cheaper beef.”

    Changing the age of slaughter has been met by confusion with pasture-fed beef farmers, who favour slower-growing natural methods over intensive beef production – which has widely been deemed the carbon friendly farming choice.

    Pasture for Life’s Dave Stanley commented: “The proposal fundamentally fails to carry out a full life cycle analysis of the production of intensively reared cattle. It doesn’t include all the negative impact associated with those livestock as well as all the loss of biodiversity that goes with intensive systems.

    “Farmers are not looking for the length of time it takes to finish animals what they are looking for is more profitability,” he continued. “By going down the 100% grass fed route, farmers not only improve their profitability overall but also produce more nutritious food, with all the other benefits of biodiversity, carbon sequestration and animal welfare is to the fore. Grazing animals on natural pasture is quite frankly the way forward.”

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