28th January 2021

Farmers reminded that livestock cleanliness can benefit their bottom-line

With the recent cold and wet weather, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) calls on producers to ensure that livestock presented for slaughter are in a clean and dry condition to ensure maximum financial returns for their business.

QMS Chair and Peeblesshire-based livestock farmer, Kate Rowell, says that although it is not always an easy job to ensure that animals stay clean and dry during the winter months, there are measures that can be implemented to minimise the contamination.

“As we still experience market uncertainty due to the dual issues of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s important to ensure that farmers avoid any potential deductions to price. Cleanliness of cattle at slaughter is influenced by a number of factors including diet, housing, feeding before slaughter and how they are transported. Although livestock farmers across the country face different challenges depending on the housing systems used and their proximity, weather, and availability and cost of bedding, there are measures that can be taken to present clean animals and help improve farmers’ bottom-line.

“Appropriate and adequate bedding, as well as stocking density, are key to maintaining clean livestock in addition to cleansing and disinfecting trailers and lorries between each haul.

“To comply with new export health certificate requirements, onsite veterinarians at processors must be able to certify that livestock trailers and floats have been cleansed and disinfected prior to being loaded with stock. Dirty stock arriving at processors jeopardise the ability of the onsite vets to make that assurance, which could impact on the marketability of the stock if the animal is ineligible for the EU export market.”

In line with Food Standards Scotland’s guidelines, livestock, when presented for slaughter, are categorised on a scale from one to five, with categories one and two acceptable for slaughter, and the rest deemed not in a fit state for processing with clean-up protocols undertaken at the expense of the producer.

“Inevitably some cattle will need to be clipped, which can take a lot of time and labour on farm, but if processors are required to clip livestock, this results in deducted charges for the additional work. If clipping cattle on farm, it is important that steps are taken to reduce potential risks to the person doing the clipping,” said Ms Rowell.

There are a number of steps which can be taken to reduce the risks involved and minimise the stress to livestock. Cattle should be fully restrained when they are clipped, ideally in a crush with anti-kicking devices and side panels that can be opened. This prevents the need to stretch across animals, especially in the high-risk areas such as brisket, flanks, belly, legs, knee and hock joints, which will all need particular attention if animals are dirty. Clippers that are well maintained are also a key aspect to safe clipping, as is the use of a circuit breaker.

“Farmers also need to remember that if processors have to trim away meat due to contamination, this reduces carcase weight, and in extreme cases carcase condemnation, and therefore affecting the price paid.

“With this in mind, it’s really important that farmers present, to the best of their ability, clean and dry animal to ensure they get the best possible returns,” adds Ms Rowell.

For additional information on the cleanliness of stock for slaughter, visit Quality Meat Scotland’s Meat the Grade tool on www.qmscotland.co.uk.


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