FAIR Project
Improving Hide and Skin Quality
a project funded by DGVI of the European Commission

The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of its publishers
and it in no way represents the views of the Commision or its services.

Hide defects - identification and eradication

In recent years, the standard of European hides and skins has declined putting increased pressure on the leather industry. Due to higher labour costs and environmental charges, Europe cannot compete with the mass leather production in developing countries. It, therefore, targets the high value and quality end of the upholstery, leathergoods, and shoe trade. In order to maintain this, a supply of good quality raw material is essential. Unfortunately, the availability of quality hides and skins is declining and currently only 30% of all European hides produced achieve the higher grades. This means that 70% of our output is failing to make the grade and represents an estimated loss to the European economy of 800M Euros per year.

The price of the hide is calculated, and included, in the price paid to farmers for their stock. If this downward trend continues, this will ultimately mean animals will have a lower value. Increased awareness to the needs of the leather industry by livestock producers could reverse this trend.

As farm damage is the greatest cause of downgrading, the farmer is the only person in a position to make the change. Read this leaflet and give it some thought.

Remember, the price you are paid for your animal
includes the skin/hide value for leather manufacture.

Biting louse attatched to hair
Tick Mouth Parts
Biting louse
(Dalmalinia bovis)
    Cause   Effect   Prevention  
Scratches   Mechanical damage to hides or "scratch" is caused by barbed wire, goads, sharp projections and the horns of other animals. Irritation caused by ectoparasites increases scratch damage due to rubbing and wounds can then become infected.   Scratch is one of the most common forms of damage and can be recent (open) or from old injuries (closed)   Avoid the use of barbed wire, particularly where cattle congregate to feed and at loading/unloading points. Use electric fencing or a guard wire in front of barbed wire. Remove loose nails and projections from pens. Dehorn all calves and incoming stock. Treat animals against ectoparasite infections.  
Dung   Dung accumulates on cattle when they are held in enclosed or confined conditions. Prolonged contact with dung leads to severe irritation of the skin and can lead to infections. Factors affecting dung build up include weather, housing and holding conditions and farming system.   The irritation to the skin due to prolonged contact with dung leads to surface staining, grain damage, cutting during mechanical operations and increased levels of bacteria.   Prevention’s include the use of straw in cattle pens, avoiding moist diets and regular cleaning of pens. Dirty animals may be rejected at the abattoir on hygiene grounds.  
Ringworm   Ringworm is a parasitic disease caused by the fungus Trichophyton. The fungus grows on both the hair and skin and affects their growth. Ringworm is highly infectious and is common during housing over winter. Ringworm is also transmissible to man on contact.   Ringworm infection causes characteristic circular lesions on leather that appear either shiny or dull. Affects 10% of cattle and results in the loss of 10M pa due to downgrading.   Ringworm infection can be treated but the lesions remain on the leather. There is now a vaccine available to prevent initial infection and thus prevent downgrading due to lesions.  
Tick   Ticks are known to carry bacterial, viral and parasitic infections. They feed off any warm blooded animal and so can transmit disease to man. In the UK, the highest incidence is in the hill regions, with seasonal peaks occurring in May and September.   Ticks feed by attaching themselves to the animal and abstracting blood. The mouth part punctures the skins, causing visible damage to the hide and results in holes in the leather. Additional damage may be caused by rubbing due to irritation.   Animals can be treated with synthetic pyrethroids and organophosphates.  
Lice   There are two types of lice found on cattle - biting and sucking. Infestations cause intense irritation which leads to rubbing. Lice favour cool conditions and are commonly found in the autumn/winter months. Transmission is through contact with infected animals.   Lice cause localised areas of inflammation and possible scar tissue. These areas react differently to the dyeing process and leave areas of light spots or "FLECKS"   There are several control treatments based on organophosphates, synthetic pyrethroids or avermectin compounds.  
Demodex   Demodex mites penetrate hides through the hair follicles and then migrate to deeper parts. Here they encyst and multiply, causing raised nodules on the hide surface. Raised tufts of hair can be an indication of infestation.   Results in light areas on the dyed hide which detracts from the appearance and results in downgrading. Also, the hair follicles are enlarged and remain visible after tanning.   It is estimated that 10% of UK cattle are infected with Demodex and the incidence is increasing. Pour-on treatments which contain organophosphates and avermectins are effective against Demodex.