Sainsbury’s has been accused of market manipulation after it told its dairy farmers to use two specific Aberdeen-Angus bulls for 20 per cent of all beef calves born on-farm in a 12-month period.
In a six month notice letter, seen by Farmers Guardian, the retailer outlined the non-negotiable compulsory standard which will see all Sainsbury’s Dairy Development Group (SDDG) members required to sire a minimum of 20 per cent of beef calves by one of two Aberdeen-Angus bulls, with semen only available from Genus.
Costing about £11/straw, it is understood the calves will be sold to Blade Farming from 10-41 days old with differing rates for heifers and bulls.
The new standard will come into effect in England in 2021 and Scotland 2022.
Farmers who fail to supply a monthly calf forecast for August 2021 by Friday, July 31, and, after discussion, do not wish to meet the minimum target, will lose their SDDG membership and revert to their processor’s direct contract from August 2021.
Those seen or heard to disagree with the scheme are under ‘severe threat’ of being delisted from milk contracts, FG understands.
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We have updated Sainsbury’s Dairy Development Group members on our plans to further integrate our dairy and beef supply chains in a way that is sustainable and continues to support British farmers.”
In April, FG reported on Sainsbury’s shift towards an Aberdeen-Angus integrated beef programme, with a spokesperson stating the volume of black and white calves will decrease over the coming years as producers focus more on Aberdeen-Angus.
Dairy Farmer columnist Ian Potter said the move had gone down ‘like a lead balloon’, with one Sainsbury’s farmer representative resigning.
Mr Potter said: “If Sainsbury’s is dictating the bull semen to be used, it should pay for it.”
One dairy farmer, who asked not to be named, feared in future the scheme could encapsulate feed, chemicals and other farm inputs.
But NFU livestock chairman Richard Findlay, said the new standard was likely to help improve consistency and eating quality of beef from the dairy sector.
He said: “Anything which improves the value or profitability of beef calves from the dairy sector should be encouraged.
“It makes sense to use a better standard of bull to help achieve better weight gain and feed conversion in calves and, by using a smaller number of bulls over a wider number of cows, consistency across the board will be improved, with calves at similar ages on similar diets.
“The biggest threat to red meat consumption is inconsistency, with one bad steak putting consumers off purchasing another.”