Overhaul of all grading machines on the cards
A complete overhaul of how the beef plants' grading machines are operated is being earmarked following high-level talks between the Department of Agriculture and farm organisations.
This follows the debacle at Dawn's Granagh plant last spring that drove farmer confidence in the mechanical grading system to an all-time low.
The indications are that the tolerances regarding the accuracy of the machines are to be significantly tightened. In addition, Department inspection criteria are to be bulked up in an effort to prevent a reoccurrence of the episode that saw 150 farmers receive refunds from Dawn in June when it was proved that the mechanical grader had graded more than 2,000 heifers and steers incorrectly.
The problem was flagged to Department inspectors at the time, but despite reportedly visiting the site on six separate inspections, officials failed to recognise that there was a problem.
It is thought that the reason for this failure was that the data analysed each time did not distinguish between heifers, cows, steers and bulls.
It is expected that data analysis will be broken down for each animal class when the new system is introduced.
However, both the ICSA and IFA are still pushing for an independent appeals system that would allow farmers to query their grades.