Auction mart chiefs have warned of confusion in the industry following Dunbia’s enforcement of penalties for more than three cattle movements.
The processor has reportedly introduced a 15p/kg penalty for cattle moved more than three times during their lifetime. Farmers Guardian understands ABP and St Merryn already operate such penalties.
But parts of the industry have said processors need to define what a cattle movement is so auction marts can display this information to buyers.
While the penalty has reportedly been introduced to improve traceability of beef products and clamp down on the action of some cattle dealer, the National Beef Association (NBA) said there was ’no justification’ for the move.
Chris Mallon, national director, said: "I do not believe the housewife is looking at meat and saying ’how many moves has this animal made?’
"It is up to £75 [per animal] for no reason at all. The processors are giving that many stipulations it becomes impossible to do the job properly."
Chris Dodds, executive secretary at the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA), underlined these views, claiming the penalty had been introduced with ’no science and no justification’.
He raised questions over whether the penalty related to a specific number of owners, residencies or had another potential definition.
"If we do not get clarity over it the store men cannot find out whether an animal is suitable for their job," he said. "We cannot announce the number of moves [an animal has made] until we know what a move constitutes."
He added some of the large UK abattoirs were Irish-owned and Ireland had a database showing auctioneers the amount of movement cattle had made, while UK did not have this.
Charles Sercombe, national livestock board chairman at the NFU, said the union sympathised with auctioneers and suggested the issue highlighted the need for a better cattle database for the industry.
Dunbia has also reportedly introduced penalties for animals over 400kg and Mr Sercombe said this was causing farmer frustration.
Adam Quinney, a beef finisher from Redditch, Worcestershire, said the quick introduction of the three movements penalty showed Dunbia had not signed up to the voluntary code. He suggested the introduction of the penalty needed to be applied sensibly for animals only moving on monetary grounds.