16 August 2002

Check out standstill rules

By Jonathan Long

DESPITE recent changes to 20-day standstill legislation, producers will still have to think ahead when planning livestock sales and purchases this autumn, according to John Thorley, National Sheep Association chief executive.

Under rule changes, announced last week, stock purchased for breeding this autumn from markets and other sales will not trigger a 20-day standstill, when isolated on their destination farm for 20 days after arrival. However, producers must have their isolation facility approved by DEFRA before animals are brought onto farm, according to a DEFRA spokesman.

Rules for isolation facilities have yet to be finalised, but information from DEFRA suggests they will be stricter than for show animals, with isolation fields at least 50m away from other livestock. But livestock isolated in buildings should not have to obey the 50m rule.

Strict bio-security procedures must also be followed. In addition, animals entering isolation from outside the holding must be examined by a vet between 14 and 20 days after arrival, says DEFRA.

Unsold rams or bulls may return to their farm of origin and enter isolation. However, this exemption does not extend to unsold ewes or cows, they will trigger a 20-day standstill on farms to which they return.

A DEFRA spokesman explains that vets were concerned there would be larger numbers involved with breeding females, particularly ewes, so there was a greater risk attached to extending the exemption.

A practical way around this could be to send unsold females to a neighbours isolation unit for the 20-day period to avoid locking up either farm, believes one Monmouthshire producer who declined to be named.

Animals entering isolation facilities following a sale may not attend another sale until 20 days after the last animal entered isolation. But this may be overcome by breeders having several isolation facilities approved on a farm, says Mr Thorley.

However, breeding ram and bull buyers can avoid a 20-day standstill by moving stock direct from farm to farm, providing that they are isolated for 20 days on their premises of departure. Many breeders are planning on farm auctions to facilitate this.

But Charollais breeder Charles Marwood concedes that on farm sales are not practical for many breeding ewe producers, as they dont have the stock numbers to draw in buyers.

Another option for some producers is to keep different groups of stock on land allocated separate holding numbers. "Under the regulations, producers can obtain different holding numbers for different blocks of land. Stock for sale can be kept on land registered to one holding number and purchased stock brought onto land registered under a different number," explains Mr Thorley. This will avoid any stock being caught by a standstill initiated by incoming stock."

NFU livestock committee delegate Adam Quinney agrees that producers will have to plan ahead to stay in business this autumn. He says that while exemptions are welcome, they will result in more expense and hassle.

"Flockmasters will need to buy breeding stock much earlier than normal in order to sell store stock at the normal time or delay selling store stock to purchase breeding stock at convenient dates," advises Mr Quinney. He also points out that multiple holding numbers bring extra paperwork, something of which many producers already feel they have too much. &#42

LIMITING 20-DAY EFFECTS

* Approved isolation facilities.

* Coordinate sales and purchases.

* Multiple holding numbers.