Sheep producers and auctioneers say legislation which diminishes the value of hoggets showing two teeth must be lifted in line with the acceptance of OTMS cattle into the food chain.

The hogget ruling states that animals that have put up two teeth cannot enter the food chain unless the carcass is split and the spinal cord removed.

The eruption of the teeth is broadly indicative of age and was deemed a trigger to divert these hoggets out of the food chain, but finishers say the timing varies with breeds and crosses.

They say the ruling, which can slice 20 off the value of a hogget, is no longer fair. Removing it will enable them to market hoggets more efficiently and over a longer period without being penalised.

Cumbria finisher Tucker Armstrong, who has about 3500 lambs on his farm at Calthwaite, near Penrith, said it would make a “massive difference” to post-Christmas marketing if the two-teeth issue were removed.

“It can be disastrous for feeders. Mouthing big numbers of sheep is heavy on time and labour and if a lot go away on a wagon and the abattoir phones and tells you some have put up two teeth you’ve no comeback.”

Taunton Livestock Market’s senior auctioneer Rob Venner believed the two-teeth issue had to be addressed before the onset of the hogget marketing season.

“A longer marketing season of UK hoggets would reduce the need for New Zealand lamb to fill the gap before new season lamb comes on stream.”

John Thorley of the National Sheep Association said the ruling to split carcasses of two-teeth hoggets now needed “deep thought” by the EU.

A spokesman for the Meat and Livestock Commission said all legislation classified under the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy road map was earmarked for review but added that it was a matter for the EU and not the UK government.