An independent review of livestock movement rules has recommended their simplification because existing arrangements are unnecessarily complicated, subject to abuse and poorly enforced.

The review, by Staffordshire farmer Bill Madders, was published by the government last Friday (4 August).

The recommendations are being considered by junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw.

“The current regime is quite contradictory and there is little understanding within the industry about how the rules should be applied,” Mr Madders told Farmers Weekly.

“My 21 recommendations should simplify the current arrangements while ensuring better disease control without restricting trade.”

A key finding of the review is the extent to which livestock keepers circumvent standstill rules by obtaining multiple holding numbers.

One keeper admitted having six CPH numbers, effectively one for each day of the week.

The report recommends that holding numbers should be abolished, preventing keepers from obtaining multiple holding numbers for the same holding or linked holdings.

It says the five-mile rule for sheep and goats should also be abolished.

In the interests of reducing disease spread, CPHs would be replaced by Livestock Movement Units which would pull together all land parcels and buildings which were farmed as a single unit and linked epidemiologically.

However, in the future it would be bought-in stock that was subject to standstill rules, not the entire holding, provided the new stock was kept isolated for a minimum of six days.

The report was welcomed by NFU livestock board chairman Thomas Binns.

“The regulations are becoming an increasingly complex affair with farmers and enforcement bodies unsure what is required of them,” he said.

One of the other big recommendations in the report is that markets and collecting centres, in addition to producers, should be required to report movements.

Mr Madders also recommends relaxing and improving specific aspects of the identification rules.

The British Cattle Movement Service, he suggests, should review the current specification for ear tags.

He also suggests that where an animal arrives at slaughter with only one ear tag, so long as it has a valid passport and there is evidence of a second ear tag having been applied, that should be enough to establish identification.

andrew.watts@rbi.co.uk