Five levels of cleanliness are recognised by food business operators for cattle and sheep. These levels range from one – clean and dry – to five – filthy and wet. Only animals falling into categories one and two can be slaughtered without restrictions.

EBLEX’s Minimising carcase losses for Better Returns manual has suggested switching cattle and sheep to a drier ration and ensuring they are provided with adequate straw prior to slaughter. Visible signs of dirt can be removed by careful and safe clipping and hides and fleeces should be kept as dry as possible to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria.

Dr Phil Hadley, EBLEX southern UK senior regional manager, said: “The hygiene controls in abattoirs have clear guidelines on cleanliness of cattle and sheep at slaughter. Animals falling outside those guidelines will be subject to additional restrictions and the costs associated with addressing those issues.

“While preventing animals becoming dirty in the first place is, of course, ideal, it can’t always be achieved, particularly in the wetter winter months. However, if stock are not presented for slaughter dry and clean, it can lead to increased processing costs which may be passed back to producers and ultimately reduce returns.”