A new virtual tool has launched to help farmers and crofters better select prime lambs and cattle for slaughter.
The free Meat the Grade tool from red meat levy body Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) aims to help increase the number of animals meeting market specifications at slaughter.
QMS cattle and sheep specialist Beth Alexander said only 60% of prime lambs and 70-80% of prime cattle currently meet specifications.
She said the two main reasons for animals being out-of-spec were cattle or sheep being over on weight and fat cover.
“Our aim is to help Scotland’s livestock farmers optimise their returns and understand carcase grading, and presentation to ensure they hit the correct specification for their chosen market,” added Ms Alexander.
“Hitting target specifications means more return for the producer and less waste for the processor.”
She said the new grading guide featured an interactive EUROP grid, which is used by abattoirs to grade carcases, with the option to click on different grades and see what a carcase in that particular specification looks like.
It also features information on handling livestock to assess fat and conformation, and an interactive image to showcase what a live animal looks like at different grades.
Adrian Crowe from Meat & Livestock Commercial Services Limited, which provides independent abattoir authentication and classification services to British abattoirs, encouraged farmers to use the tool.
He said: “Many farmers will select stock based on what they weigh and, although they may receive good conformation grades, many will find they are not achieving the correct fat class.
“The tool will demonstrate to farmers ways they can select stock by handling them to assess fat cover and conformation to help hit market specifications.”
QMS head of industry development, Bruce McConachie, said there were opportunities for farmers to maximise returns through careful selection and presentation of stock, rather than focusing solely on a beast’s weight.
He said: “This may mean producers are not hitting the maximum price per head each time but can help increase the gap between the cost of production and the income from livestock sales.”
The free tool is available online here.