2 August 2001
Government to slaughter 1.3m lambs

By Isabel Davies

THE livestock welfare disposal scheme will be extended to deal with an estimated 1.3 million unmarketable light lambs, the government has confirmed.

Food minister Lord Whitty told a conference in Warwick that the scheme would be adapted to prevent welfare and environmental problems on farms.

Details of the scheme will not be available until later this month but the plan is to get arrangements in place for a September start, he said.

The lambs will be dealt with in a separate stream to other animals destined for the disposal scheme. It is believed farmers will receive about 10 an animal.

Addressing the conference, which was organised by the National Farmers Union, Lord Whitty said the buy-up scheme should be considered a one off.

“I want to make it clear that this is an exceptional measure taken to deal with this years exceptional problem,” he said.

“Once foot-and-mouth is eliminated, it will not be repeated.

“In this, as in other matters – like restocking- farmers will have to make a commercial judgement about how to run their businesses next year.”

The minister warned that the sheep industry will need to adapt to a future where there will be more emphasis on quality rather than quantity.

“Sheep farming will have to change. In the long term, support from government and from the EU cannot be based on headage payments and production subsidies.”

Lord Whitty said the government would encourage farmers who were prepared to stock less intensively to enter agri-environment schemes.

Others would be encouraged to look at going organic or to consider making greater use of quality assurance in order to obtain a premium for their produce.

The minister also revealed the government would introduce a new regime for livestock movements in the autumn based on risk assessments.

Advisers have told the government that sheep in infected or at risk areas should be moved only if they come from serologically tested flocks, he said.

But there were limited testing facilities and there would also be resource implications so the issue would need further discussion.

“We are therefore consulting the sheep industry urgently about the priorities they see for whatever limited serological capacity we can allocate to sheep movements.”

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