CHANGES LIKELY to be made to the National Scrapie Plan next year will mean all rams sold for further breeding will have to be genotyped, according to DEFRA.

This would effectively change the voluntary nature of the NSP, making membership compulsory for all flocks selling rams for further breeding.

However, a DEFRA spokeswoman refuted a sheep industry rumour that the rule would be applied to all rams traded for breeding after next September. “It is likely this change will be brought in some time next year, but it can’t be done by next September,” she said.

But implementing this would depend on the EU Commission providing a definition of what constituted a high genetic merit flock, said the spokeswoman. “Until this is decided, the changes can’t be implemented. This decision is likely to be made next April.”

National Sheep Association chief executive John Thorley told farmers weekly that, as far as he knew, the rule was unlikely to be implemented until April 2006.

“The current information I have, which follows discussions with NSP officials, suggests it will be difficult to implement this until then. It would be difficult to get all the necessary elements in place by next year.

“Additionally, the UK is far ahead of most of Europe on breeding for scrapie resistance, so they are unlikely to force this on us.”