21 December 2001

One year on … livestock

markets set to open doors

By Alistair Driver

LIVESTOCK markets are set to resume in England and Wales -almost exactly one year after they were closed because of foot-and-mouth.

Store cattle will be sold at markets under stringent biosecurity measures from mid-February. Markets sending cattle, sheep and pigs straight to slaughter will open under an interim regime. A DEFRA spokesman said some multiple pick-ups of animals going to markets will also be allowed.

Junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty described the announcement as a "major milestone". But farmers must maintain strict biosecurity, he said on Wed (Dec 18). "These proposals have been developed following extensive discussions with stakeholders and will hopefully make life a lot easier for the industry."

Licences for individual livestock movements will be replaced by general licences. New tracing rules for sheep will be introduced, although this will not initially entail individual tracing.

The interim regime is expected to remain in place until next autumn when a permanent regime will come into effect. But the first markets will not feature store sheep sales, which ministers believe present too high a risk of spreading F&M. However, officials will face pressure to allow store sales by May, in time for the post-lambing period.

The 20-day standstill rule for livestock will remain in place except under special circumstances. This includes the movement of young calves, breeding bulls and pigs and sheep moving from tack. Even then, however, farmers will have to show that controls provide sufficient protection.

Junior DEFRA minister Elliot Morley said the new regime was conditional on there being no further cases of F&M.

"I hope it will not be long before the country can, with reasonable confidence, be regarded as free of disease," said Mr Morley. But we still a need to maintain precautions against the recovery of the disease. This will be recognised in the interim F&M movement regime which, assuming all goes well, we hope to introduce in mid-February." &#42