Sheep and cattle service remains, abattoir promises

MOVING the slaughter of local cattle and sheep to north Lanarkshire is saving the service for Borders farmers say the local abattoir bosses.

Scottish Borders Abattoir (SBA) vice-chairman George Deans said the service would have been under threat if his company in Galashiels had not set up the joint venture with its nearest competitor, at Shotts.

The deal, struck in the past month, saves both businesses and local farmers should see no difference, he said.

Speaking to TheSouthern yesterday, Mr Deans said: “If we hadn’t had this option, it would have been very difficult to justify the viability of our business. It became increasingly difficult to maintain the service. We were in a position where we had to take action.”

He said there were not enough cattle and sheep going through the Winston Road operation: “We have a huge plant at Galashiels and it’s economies of scale. We got to a certain point where we didn’t have the throughput. It’s cheaper for us to do it this way than it would have been to continue with huge overheads in the plant – it’s consolidating our viability.”

The move means two job losses at Galashiels but the remaining 12 are secure said Mr Deans.

SBA is paying to transport cattle and sheep live to Shotts for slaughter, to be returned the next day. The local operation is continuing to kill pigs and maintaining its chiller and processing plant boning and cutting for butchers and farmers.

But farmers are concerned, and after a meeting with SBA last Friday, NFU Scotland is setting up a development group to look at options for slaughtering and processing in the region.

The union president, Stow livestock farmer Nigel Miller, said: “The group’s immediate priority will be to explore new arrangements to ensure that there is enough volume to support any future abattoir operation.”

“We are all very concerned about the loss of slaughter provision for cattle and sheep at Galashiels, but welcome the continued pig processing operation there.

“Even though an alternative solution via Shotts abattoir has been found, the situation is far from ideal and highlights numerous wider issues. The Borders is a major livestock-producing region with the potential to supply high volumes of good quality meat. The region has a good network of local butchers and branded produce retailers which are a great credit to the area and must be allowed to thrive.”

SBA has set up the joint venture with Shotts’s John Chapman, co-founder of SBA with Hamish Deans in 1980.

“They are able to provide SBA with a good deal. We can maintain the same service with the same deliveries at the same price – our customers should see no change,” said Mr Deans.

He added SBA would maintain its cattle and sheep killing licence.

In Feburary, the abattoir gained a grant of £115,500 from the Scottish Government to upgrade its facility and buy and install processing and manufacturing equipment which the company estimated would cost more than £288,700 in total.