Sheep farmers should hold a certificate of competence to keep sheep, according to the Sheep Vet Society’s (SVS) policy statement Sheep Welfare in the UK.

The society also recognises the continuing decline in the number of experienced shepherds in the UK and believes all shepherds, experienced or inexperienced, as well as farmers and vets need increased opportunities for formal and informal training, says SVS president Linda Lowseck.

But National Sheep Association chief executive Peter Morris says a qualification, such as a certificate of competence, is not always appropriate.

“There is always a need for people involved in livestock farming to be appropriately trained, but this may not always be best recognised by a formal qualification.”

Regular vet visits should become a feature of flock management in future, believes Ms Lowseck.

“All flocks under the care of a vet should receive at least one vet visit a year, when routine management and treatment of the flock should be discussed.

Only medicines discussed and noted at this visit would be supplied by the vet.”

However, given the current state of the UK vet sector, this is unlikely to be deliverable or beneficial, believes Mr Morris.

“There is a lack of vets available with sufficient knowledge of the sheep sector and, on top of that, for many flocks, particularly hill flocks, the benefits associated with having a vet in a consultative role are difficult to quantify.

“Prohibiting the supply of drugs to farmers in such a way would yield no benefit to either farmers or the sheep they care for.”

Other concerns raised by the SVS include the loss of local abattoirs, the role of supermarkets in the sheep sector and tail docking and castration of lambs.

jonathan.long@rbi.co.uk