Live auction marts are set to resume in Scotland on Monday (27 August), but England and Wales will have to wait a while longer.
“Resumption of auctions will be of enormous benefit to farmers looking to move sheep off the hills over the coming weeks and for those many sales which have had to be delayed,” said Scottish agriculture minister Richard Lochhead.
“I am sure a few celebratory drams will be poured tonight as we gear up to returning to business as usual.”
But the authorities in England and Wales have been taking a more cautious line. Senior vets were meeting on Friday afternoon (24 August) to consider a risk assessment, before deciding whether to announce a date for auction marts to resume.
“We have presented a strong case and are hoping live markets may be allowed next week,” said an NFU spokesman.
Further clarification has, however, been forthcoming from DEFRA on the rules governing live animal movements.
DEFRA’s initial statement (on Thirsday) said that, while the movement ban outside the surveillance zone had been lifted, any animal moving from one premises to another would be subject to a 20 day standstill, unless the movement was within a single holding and was less than 8km.
This has now been refined, so that animals can move any distance, any number of times if it is within the same holding, irrespective of distance.
In the case of a fragmented holding (Single Occupancy Authority), animals can move any number of times up to a distance of 8km.
In the case of a fragmented holding (Single Occupancy Authority) of over 8km, animals can move once before the 20 day standstill applies.
All other restrictions have now been lifted outside the surveillance zone, meaning shearing, dipping, multiple pick-ups and fallen stock collection can carry on as normal.
Auction marts can also hold “red markets” for animals going on to slaughter, and act as collection centres.
Auctioneer Bagshaws held its first red market at Derby on Thursday (23 August). “There was a small entry and the controls were very strict,” said auctioneer Alastair Sneddon. Some of these extra measures have now been relaxed.
Meanwhile, DEFRA has today (Friday) lifted the two 3km protection zones in Surrey and merged them into one larger surveillance zone.
Licences will also be available from Saturday (25 August) for exports of meat and live animals to the EU, though live shipments will have to go direct from farm to port and may not involve an auction mart.
Form more on foot and mouth, see our special report