24 August 2001

Rule change for Scots as marts ready to reopen

By James Garner

NEW livestock trading arrangements were put into place in Scotland this week, where most markets in areas designated as disease-free are due to open their doors from Sept 1.

It is widely believed that other UK regions will adopt similar rules when markets resume later in the year.

North of the border the return of markets was widely welcomed, and although disease control measures are tough, the overall consensus was that some markets are better than none at all.

But there will be extra costs involved with the new arrangements, as every animal, whether sold through a market, straight to slaughter or privately, will have to be individually identified and all its movements recorded.

Cattle will be covered under tagging rules governed by the British Cattle Movement Service. Sheep will be tagged with an individual identification number in the market and licences will be approved there, with the costs being passed on to farmers.

For private sales or direct to abattoir sales, farmers must tag sheep with individual numbers as well as their own flock mark number.

Once sold, as the rules stood when farmers weekly went to press, neither cattle nor sheep would be allowed to move again until they were ready for slaughter.

But there has been some back-tracking by the Scottish Executive and some insiders expected an announcement towards the end of the week that would exempt cattle from the one movement rule as early as mid-September.

NFU Scotland has been pushing hard for change. Its president, Jim Walker, said: "We are pressing for it to be looked at again before it crushes the market."

Sheep movements are likely to be kept under tighter control. Farmers who buy store lambs to fatten this autumn might find themselves left with no feed and stuck with some lambs they cant move on.

Willy Blair, secretary of the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland, said: "This could build up a serious welfare problem later in the year."

There will also be a 72-hour gap between markets to allow disinfection.

The 21-day rule remains, so if farmers buy animals, whether privately or in a market, and take them to a holding with stock, no animals can move until three weeks have passed.

Markets in England and Wales look set to remain closed for some time. The anticipated announcement on animal movements and markets opening in some areas from Sept-ember has not been forthcoming. &#42