NFU brokers deal over abattoir changes

THE National Farmers Union of Scotland has moved to mitigate problems linked to the decision by Galashiels abattoir that it would cease killing cattle and sheep by getting Scottish Borders Abattoir to provide a full service for consignors at Shotts Abattoir in North Lanarkshire

Transport will be provided to get livestock to Shotts, with the carcases able to return to Galashiels, where the cutting and packing hall will remain open. Galashiels will continue to provide a slaughter facility for pigs and SBA wholesale will continue as well.

NFUS president Nigel Miller said: "We are all very concerned about the loss of slaughter provision for cattle and sheep at Galashiels, but welcome the continued pig processing operation there.

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"Consumers can also be assured that the service will be continued as the partnership between SBA and Shotts Abattoir will see stock being moved to the modern plant at Shotts for slaughter, with the carcases returned to Galashiels' chill and cutting plant.

"It is very unfortunate that two jobs have been lost with the decision to stop cattle and sheep slaughter at the plant. However, it is positive that, despite the drop in throughput, the abattoir can still meet existing contracts and support the market at St Boswells."

Miller admitted the "Shotts solution" was far from ideal and highlighted numerous wider issues. "The Borders is a major livestock-producing region with the potential to supply high volumes of good quality meat. The region has a good network of local butchers and branded producer-retailers which are a great credit to the area and must be allowed to thrive.

"NFUS will establish a development group to explore future options for slaughtering and processing in the Borders. The group's immediate priority will be to explore new arrangements to ensure that there is enough volume to support any future abattoir operation."

lAn open day at the Park family farm of Drinkstone, Hawick, to celebrate its winning the Future Farmer of the Year award produced some strong messages for other producers.

Sam Boon of Signet, which advocates the use of performance figures in sheep production, urged commercial sheep to consider their current flock breeding programme and what ought to be changed when setting future breeding objectives.

"With Drinkstone's Suffolk and Texel flocks performance figures in the top 1 per cent in the UK, it clearly demonstrates the rewards of setting breeding objectives," he said. "The genetic progress at Drinkstone is three times the rate of the national average and that is for those that do record."

His message for other producers was to do their homework on the internet: "All the information is in the public domain. Identify the traits which will be profitable for your flock and then locate the breeders that will cut the mustard." Visitors to the farm also saw the grazing regime which gained praise from Scottish Agricultural College sheep guru Dr John Vipond. Commenting on the high proportion of clover in the sward, he said: "In order to achieve more clover, you need to have compatible grass clover varieties, late-heading tetraploids and small-leaved clovers fit the bill.

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"The Parks are using red clover and hybrid rye grass in a specific mix for producing silage and aftermath grazing for lambs. Even the demands of the high performance Drinkstone flocks are satisfied by supplementing this high protein red clover silage with soya in late pregnancy, rather than feeding grass silage and concentrates."

Dr Vipond concluded that the knock-on benefit is reduced worm challenge: "Ewes don't lose their immunity in late pregnancy, meaning that both the ewes and lambs are cleaner, further enhancing sustainable farming and profit."

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