13 August 1999

Official action now vital for flocks

STRONG government is needed to rescue the sheep industry before contraction begins to reduce sheep numbers and producers.

National Sheep Association chief executive John Thorley told visitors to the Lleyn 99 event at Luscombe Farm, Snittersfield, Warks, that the time for listening was over, and now the government had to act.

The governments rhetoric about environment, welfare and ecology is a view held by many people, admitted Mr Thorley. "But we dont hear them talk about the vital importance of farming to the well-being of the countryside".

But lip service was not enough now; action was needed. By this, Mr Thorley said that any moves to relieve the pressure of cull ewe prices would be a start.

"As in Ireland last year, cull ewes could be taken out of the market. This would stop sheep that should be culled being used for breeding, adding further to the industrys problems."

He also encouraged produces to befriend consumers. Consumers were sympathetic to livestock farmers and their pressure on government was vitally important, he said.

But he added that despite the sheep industrys financial woes, producer image in the national media should also be considered.

"We should have a clean farmer policy when producers are presenting stock for sale in markets. It is a sign of professionalism.

"It is not a good image to be covered in clart when on television." Often, those who are, attract most attention from the media, he added.

"Many producers do have a clean up before going to market, but the few who dont will always tarnish the farmers image." Auctioneers too should adopt a dress code, he said.