21 May 1999

Contract shearers from Downland Sheep World were employed to clip 200 Mule and Suffolk gimmers on Jonathan Rowes Down Farm, Aldbury, Herts. When Mr Rowes father was running the farm, 38 years ago, the money from the wool paid the rent for a year. This year, however, the return wont even cover the contractors bill.

Intervene, EU asks WTO

THE EU is to seek arbitration from the World Trade Organisation in its dispute with the US over hormone-treated beef.

Franz Fischler, acting EU farm commissioner, said he would challenge the level of sanctions imposed by the US after the EU refused to lift its ban on the beef.

A WTO deadline calling on the EU to open its markets to US hormone-treated beef expired without event last Thursday (May 13).

Washington is now finalising a list of European agricultural and consumer products which it claims will be targeted with punitive duties totalling $202m (£124.7m).

Mr Fischler said: "We will certainly challenge this sum." &#42

EA:Wait 3 months after dipping sheep

SHEEP producers are to be encouraged to avoid dipping their stock for at least three months before shearing or slaughter in order to reduce sheep dip chemical pollution in textile processing.

An Environment Agency report concluded that residues of sheep dip in wool needed to be minimised at the time of shearing or slaughter so that less dip chemical is released when fleeces are processed.

The solution was for producers to avoid using a dip or pour-on for at least three months before shearing or slaughter.

A lack of regular routine dipping had led to an increase in sheep scab, the report claimed. In turn, that had led to more frequent, ad hoc treatment of sheep, often shortly before marketing to ensure animals were sold disease-free.

But according to the agency, the need to treat sheep for diseases, particularly scab, could be reduced if farmers were to adopt good husbandry practices.

Suggestions included quarantine periods before the introduction of new stock, better fencing to reduce the spread of disease through stray animals and more co-operation between upland farmers on the timing of treatment.

The report also called for consideration to be given to the introduction of an industry-led set treatment time for sheep.

"The recommendations are bound to worry farmers," said John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association. But producers had to look at them in the context of the whole industry. "I hope farmers will look at this as a way of repositioning the whole business in a sensible way," he said.

A spokeswoman for the British Wool Marketing Board said the organisation welcomed the report. Other countries avoided dipping for six months before shearing and, unless Britain followed suit, British wool would be at a competitive disadvantage, she said. &#42