Major processor calls for action on uncrutched sale sheep

Terry Sim, March 29, 2023

A well-crutched Merino ewe up for sale.

MAJOR sheep meat processor Thomas Foods International has directed buyers to avoid mutton and lambs not prepared properly for post-sale processing.

TFI buyer Andrew Jackson said he had been unable to bid on half the sheep at a recent sale because many were uncrutched.

During the sale he asked the selling agent to have vendors crutch their sheep so he could bid on them.

“A lot of people don’t realise the damage it does to our export market when your micro (microbial) count goes through the roof because you’ve got all these dirty uncrutched animals coming through,” Mr Jackson told Sheep Central.

“It can jeopardise the whole industry.”

He said too much wool around the breech (crutch) makes it very hard to keep carcases clean and free from contamination during processing.

TFI national smallstock manager Paul Leonard said the issue is mainly with uncrutched sheep suitable for the export mutton market.

“If they haven’t been looked after we don’t operate on them.”

Uncrutched sheep presented a product integrity issue and the company tried to ensure that the stock were also not too difficult for workers to process, he said.

Mr Leonard said there are processes in place to apply penalties to producers consigning ‘dirty’ stock to plants.

“In saleyards, don’t send in something you wouldn’t want to dress yourself – it’s just common sense.

“We’re very particular about trying to get good dressing for our clients and for ourselves and you don’t want the chain stopping and starting all the time, particularly when it could be something that is avoidable.”

Mr Leonard any carcases contaminated by dirty wool during processing might have to be trimmed.

“The last thing you want is for your lambs to end up on the retain rail and have to be pre-trimmed as a result of an order from the on-plant vet to make sure they are fit for purpose to go over the scales.”

Mr Leonard said he is not saying that sheep and lambs need to be freshly crutched prior to sale, but any issues with long wool around the breech should have been addressed in the previous 6-8 weeks.


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