By Martin Ryan
Marts: Early indications are that the changeover to factory personnel for grading of cattle at beef plants experienced a smooth first day of operation yesterday.
For the first time the grading of cattle was carried out by specially trained factory staff, with Department of Agriculture Classification Officers maintaining a monitoring role, which they will continue to provide at the factories where mechanical grading machines are due to take over the job of grading the carcasses within about six weeks when the commissioning of the new equipment is completed.
Reports from factories and producers of cattle at the end of the first day of the changeover was that the process operated within the spirit of ensuring the minimum disruption to the trade occurred.
"It was very much business as normal, and most suppliers of cattle appeared to be satisfied that the results were reasonable with the feeling that the factory staff gave a fair result" one source within the industry said.
"It is not in the interest of either the factories or the farmers that there is a major disruption to the trade at this time of the year.""
While the factory staff have been trained for the task of grading and all have been assessed by officials of the Department of Agriculture before being approved, both farmers and factories were apprehensive over the change and anxious that the department staff should be retained until the mechanical graders are ready for operation.
However, once the department finally pulled the plug on the continuation of the service with effect from last Friday, the factory bosses agreed to put in their own staff rather than face the possibility of major disruption in a stand-off with the department.