Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

Overhaul of all grading machines on the cards

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

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.

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This would require Department staff with experience in manual grading to be available at every plant in the country to adjudicate on appeals.

But the IFA's Michael Doran believes that there are already enough Department personnel in each plant.

"There are Department people tripping over themselves in every plant in the country," he said at last week's beef finisher meeting in Portlaoise, Co Laois.

Mr Doran wants a Department official in each plant to be made responsible for ensuring that each grading machine is working correctly.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland (DARD) has given the green light for mechanical grading machines to be introduced in plants in the North.

DARD said the machines will initially be inspected each week.

Last year, mechanical grading machines in the Republic were inspected by the Department on average once every three weeks.

Irish Independent