Factory kill charges in the North cost farmers in excess of £7.5m (€8.8m) in 2016, according to figures from the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU).

The analysis carried out by the UFU did not include levies, Ulster Farmers’ Union Beef and Lamb Chairman, Crosby Cleland, said.

Furthermore the figures the UFU examined also excluded clipping charges, but it estimated that these were £0.25p/head (€0.29c/head) for sheep and £4.50-5.00/head (€5.30-5.90/head) in local plants.

Cleland believes processors must focus on reducing this burden for their farmer suppliers while he is also calling for greater transparency around these costs.

Kill charges have always been a contentious issue, and farmers will be rightly concerned about what they amounted to last year.

"Whether these are for insurance, waste disposal, grading or veterinary services, these are charges for which farmers see little benefit.

“Processors are well aware that margins remain slim on beef and sheep farms. It's disappointing they have done little to reduce these costs, or indeed to be to more open about how they can be justified," he said.

The UFU Beef and Lamb Chairman believes processors need to think about how to tackle these costs.

Waste disposal costs are a much greater burden, but with oil prices increasing these charges should be reducing.

"We also need a guarantee that should Northern Ireland gain BSE negligible risk status, disposal charges will drop significantly because there will be less waste,” he said.

He added that while insurance and veterinary charges were more complicated this should not prevent processors or DAERA being more transparent around these costs and how they might be cut for farmers.

Farmers Frustrated with Factories south of the Border

The move by two major lamb factory groups to impose clipping charges on lambs was branded as ‘totally wrong’, by the IFA’s John Lynskey recently.

The IFA National Sheep Committee Chairman believes factories are taking advantage of sheep farmers with the introduction of clipping charges of 20/25c per sheep across the board.

This is despite the fact that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has not yet introduced a clean sheep policy and is still consulting stakeholders on the matter, he added.

Lynskey called on the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, and the Department to call in the lamb factories and insist that they remove the across the board clipping charges, which the Department has outlined are not justified.