17 May 2002

Relaxation of sheep rules is welcome move

By Jonathan Long

WITH breeding sales pencilled in for late May, changes to the sheep movement regime provide producers with some hope, but many say there are still huge steps to be taken before flocks can return to normal.

Changes introduced on May 15 under the Sheep and Goats Interim Movement Order (SAGIMO) mean that sheep should shortly return to store and breeding markets, as well as shows, after a 15 month absence (Business, May 10).

John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association (NSA), welcomes the new rules and believes they are a move in the right direction. "We are aiming for a gradual unwinding of the rules with as much biosecurity as possible."

Market rule changes will enable mart operators to choose between holding either a dedicated slaughter market or a dedicated store market on any one day, according to DEFRA guidelines supplied to NSA and the Livestock Auctioneers Association. They will not be able to hold both types of market on the same day but can hold both in the same week.

Stock going to all markets must respect any 20-day standstill in force on their departure holding.

Movements to slaughter only markets can take place under a general licence but sheep movements to store markets will require a licence from Trading Standards as will those from farm to farm, says DEFRA. All sheep movements will have to be accompanied by a movement form as before foot-and-mouth, it adds.

Sheep moving away from store markets will be able to go to any destination, but will need a SAGIMO document issued by the market operator and will trigger a 20-day standstill at the premises of destination. Sheep leaving slaughter markets must go straight to slaughter or return to their holding of origin where they will also trigger a 20-day standstill.

Among the changes, detailed in the guidelines, are relaxations to the 20-day standstill, which include a number of exemptions for breeding stock. Breeding rams, moving from farm to farm, will not trigger a 20-day standstill on their premises of destination, providing they are isolated for 20 days in approved isolation facilities or the whole farm is subject to a 20-day standstill. Sheep moving to artificial insemination centres will be subject to the same exemptions as breeding rams.

Under the guidelines, breeding rams returning home unsold will trigger a 20-day standstill. "This will knock on the head our usual marketing of rams," says David Rossiter, who runs pedigree Poll Dorsets and Suffolks alongside commercial ewes at Kingsbridge, Devon. Mr Rossiter would normally sell large numbers of rams through the sale rings. "Not being able to take rams out to sale again for 20 days will seriously affect our business."

Fiona Sloan, Bluefaced Leicester Association secretary, agrees with Mr Rossiter. "We would like to see a situation where we can isolate sheep between sales, the same way we can for shows. The sheep industry is dependent on a workable auction system."

Many producers will, however, be helped by the scrapping of the distance limit on Sole Occupancy Authorities (SOAs). The previous limit was 50km (31 miles). The remainder of the SOA rules remain the same.

Also in the new guidelines are rules for shows. Sheep attending shows will require a round trip licence, this will cover movements to and from shows and also between shows.

Sheep sold at shows will have to return to their farm of origin for 20 days before they can be moved to the purchasers premises. Stock going to shows must also be individually identified. &#42

&#8226 Licences to store markets.

&#8226 Breeding ram relaxations.

&#8226 No distance limit on SOA.