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VIA Replacing LMC Classification Officers

01 April 2011

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - Livestock and Meat Commission classification staff will hang up their hard hats and white coats this week as meat plants in Northern Ireland move to automated grading of cattle.

It is a significant event for the industry as the redundant classifiers, have for the last twenty years, provided the Northern Ireland beef and lamb industry with services, which have contributed to the industry’s integrity, efficiency and profitability.

The classification schemes for cattle and sheep are vitally important to the meat industry, providing transparency to the transactions between producers and abattoirs. Regular EU performance monitoring has ensured technical standards have been delivered across Northern Ireland by a dedicated team of classifications officers and management, providing reassurance to producers and contributing to the effective marketing of finished stock. David Rutledge LMC CEO comments: “The classification given to the carcase is significantly important as it dictates the financial revenue for the supply chain. LMC classifiers have ensured that the objectives of industry have been met and have continually improved the service offered. These grades and prices have been published in the LMC Bulletin and provide an important reference document for producers when choosing their direct marketing route”.

LMC classifiers have worked to annualised hours providing greater flexibility to serve seasonal demands. Over the years graders have been rotated round meat plants and farmers were encouraged to accompany their stock to the plants to see their carcases prepared, weighed and classified. LMC’s Classification service aided the industry by setting up educational carcase displays at meat plants and other venues throughout Northern Ireland to demonstrate the importance of good breeding and proper selection for slaughter. This offered farmers an opportunity to improve their returns when marketing finished cattle and sheep through the Cattle and Sheep Selection for Slaughter Training Programme.

The strength of LMC’s Agency and Classification departments came from their independence as staff ensured that cattle and sheep were accurately identified, there was no excessive trimming, and weights properly recorded. As agents of the Intervention Board in Northern Ireland, LMC classification staff delivered the operational elements of BSE Schemes through difficult times, also administering market support schemes such as intervention buying and selling, aids for private storage and export refunds. Unfortunately all 17 classifiers are being made redundant as there are no replacement positions available at LMC. As a non departmental public body, contrary to some reports, Government policy allows only the payment of statutory redundancy, on average just one week’s pay for each year of service.

David Rutledge continues: “LMC is trying to offer as much support as possible to the classifiers. There is never a good time to lose your job but the current economic climate is particularly harsh. Despite our best efforts all 17 classifiers are being made redundant and this will have quite an impact on a number of families. Unfortunately it is unavoidable. However, on behalf of LMC, I would like to thank the classification team for their services to LMC and the NI industry over the last twenty years.”

From 28 March all major Northern Ireland meat plants have been operating VIA (video image analysis), and a new payment grid based on a 15 point scale has been in operation.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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