By Julie Wight

ONE event not to be missed this year, the Premier Meat Exhibition, is one week earlier than normal with the liveweight judging taking place on Wednesday, November 13.

The live section placings will be decided at Caledonian Marts, Stirling, with sheep judging commencing at 3pm and cattle judging an hour later. The deadweight competition is to take place at Scotbeef, Bridge of Allan, at 10am on Saturday, November, 16.

The event – which is organised by the Scottish National Fatstock Club along with Scotbeef and Marks and Spencer – will see sheep entries up on the year and they will spread across 10 classes, however, cattle numbers are back slightly on the year. Organisers said this was a representation of the current climate where the beef finishing trade is struggling due to the implementation of lower carcase weights and anti-beef campaigns.

The young livestock producers section of the event, though, is looking more optimistic, with an increase in entries on the year, which will be judged over four cattle classes and two sheep classes. This started five years ago to keep young people engaged in the industry and has proved to be a positive addition to the event, said organisers.

This year, the weight limit of continental cattle has been dropped to 630kg from 650kg due to the meat processors wanting lighter carcases – though native breeds and crosses will remain at the 650kg weight.

"This is always going to be an issue with getting cattle finished quick enough, however, I don't think it has impacted our entries as a lot of the big continental cattle are not always good," said SNFC's chief cattle steward, Allan Turnbull, Meadowend, Clackmannan.

"I am delighted with the entries we have achieved in both sheep and cattle. I thought it would have had been a lot different, especially with the year it has been within the industry. It has been a tough six months for everyone," added Mr Turnbull.

"In general, lowering the carcase weight at abattoirs will cause problems in the sector as it will have a huge impact on the size of the animals and the quality of the grading. We are either going to need to sell animals before they are ready and get an average grade, or keep it until it should be ready and then receive a poorer price per kg for a heavier, but better animal," explained Mr Turnbull.

Over the last decade, carcase weights have been rising within the UK, Scotland included, which has been causing problems in abattoirs and with meat processors.

"Specific cuts require certain thickness and weight, and if cattle are too heavy these cuts just become too fatty and impractical, so there did need to be a weight drop at some point," said Alan McNaughton, who will be judging the cattle carcases judging at Scotbeef.

"It is crucial that the industry does listen to what the consumer wants as, at the end of the day, if don't, then we won't sell our product."

He added that with age also comes with toughness, though there is no issue with this if it is between 16-24 months.

"The crucial part in producing the correct size of animal is all in the breeding of the cattle. Breeders need to ensure the cow isn't too big and that the sire and dam both produce the right spec' of cattle.

"We often end up paying too much for what you don’t want, to get enough of what you do want," he concluded.


Live cattle – Aileen Ingram, East Comalegy, Drumblade, Aberdeenshire.

Live sheep – William Shearer, Burnbrae, Sandford, Strathaven.

Cattle carcase – Alan McNaughton, Waulkmill, Laurencekirk.

Sheep carcase – Geraud Macquet,Route de Saint Omer, France.