17 May 2002

Hopes are fading for standstill rule change

By Jonathan Long

WITH changes to the sheep movement regime announced last week, hopes of the 20-day standstill being scrapped before the end of summer are fast disappearing.

Few were expecting it to be abolished completely, but some suggest that a shorter period is more appropriate.

Robert Forster, chief executive of the National Beef Association, suggests that lowering the limit to six days would allow animals to pass through two markets in seven days. "This will allow unsold stock to go back to market the following week."

"Stringent cleansing and disinfection rules will be a greater disease prevention measure than any livestock standstill," adds Mr Forster. "This can lower disease risk by 80 to 85%."

Sheep and cattle producer Frank Langrish of Rye, East Sussex, who farms 4000 ewes and 150 finishing cattle, believes his sheep enterprise can operate under present rules. "DEFRA have allowed us to take on different holding numbers for separate blocks of land." This allows him to move sheep on and off the farm as usual, although he did have problems getting tups to ewes last autumn.

However, the standstill is having a serious effect on the cattle enterprise, "We normally sell finished cattle at market and buy in stores continually, at present we have to plan ahead and are co-operating with a neighbour to limit the effect.

"It has been a logistical nightmare trying to organise stock movements." He would prefer to see the standstill scrapped, but feels six days would be an acceptable compromise.

Cattle finisher John Trenholme of Thirsk, North Yorks, also finds coping with the standstill difficult. "We are having trouble getting cattle away to summer grazing, while also buying in more store cattle."

Mr Trenholme also stresses the inconsistencies of the standstill. "When I bring cattle onto a holding linked to mine by a sole occupancy authority all of my holdings go under a 20-day standstill, no matter how far apart they are. But if a neighbour moves stock into a field next to mine it has no effect whatsoever," he says.

Ultimately the standstill needs abolishing, but any reduction will be a step in the right direction. A period of less than seven days would be practical, according to Mr Trenholme.

Sheep and dairy producer David Rossiter of Kingsbridge, Devon agrees. "We cannot live with a 20-day standstill. "I believe everyone could work with a standstill of less than a week, Id like to see it set at five days." &#42

The 20-day standstill 9should be reduced to six days, says Robert Forster.

&#8226 Shorten standstill

&#8226 Effective C&D rules

&#8226 Rethink SOA regulations