22 March 2002

Official nod for multiple cattle drops

MULTIPLE drops of cattle that have been sold at auction have finally been given the go-ahead by government after weeks of campaigning by the industry.

The change was agreed at an industry stakeholder meeting last week, one of several planned changes to interim movement measures.

A DEFRA spokesman told FW that this was the first concession and others would follow in "an early summer review".

Ever since the measures governing the operation of auction marts were introduced by Lord Whitty on Feb 11, the ban on multiple drop-offs of cattle and calves has been a sticking point.

Auctioneers and industry bodies alike claimed the ban should be scrapped, as it does little to reinforce biosecurity and hampers trade.

Store cattle trade is running at a third of normal throughput, compared with corresponding volumes in 2000. The rule change should allow freer dealing, provided enough farmers have their premises approved by divisional vet managers (Livestock, p39).

Robert Forster, chief executive of the National Beef Association, agreed. "It is great news, but farmers must get qualified."

He reckoned there were just a few properties eligible for multiple pick-ups, or multiple drop-offs, rather than the thousands needed to help ease the passage of store and breeding cattle and calves around the country.

Kevin Pearce, NFU livestock adviser, said the rule change on multiple drop-offs was a big boost for store and calf sales. It was now more viable for farmers to buy animals in a market, because cattle could be bunched into loads.

Peter Kingwill, chairman of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, said the rule change made common sense and was particularly important for low-value items, such as calves.

"We have been frustrated by the number of weeks it has taken to get the rule changed, but at last DEFRA has listened."

Other measures will allow multiple pick-ups from markets if the animals are destined for a slaughterhouse, said Mr Pearce.

"Buyers often purchase 20 or 30 animals in a small market, but the rules made this prohibitive, as each batch required a separate lorry. This was costing too much and affecting sales."

lOne other planned rule change is that sheep away on tack can return to their original holding with a paint mark, used to identify the batch, rather than an "S" tag flock mark of the holding they are leaving. &#42