6 September 2002

Scrapie Plan timescale is questioned

By James Garner

SUBSTANTIAL premiums for Texel rams that have blood-tested Type 1 for scrapie resistance have prompted the breed society to question the timescale of the National Scrapie Plan.

Under current rules, set out by DEFRA, breeders will not be able to sell Type 3 scrapie-genotyped rams in 2004.

Steven McLean, chief executive of the society, says that this is forcing shearling ram producers to buy Type 1 animals this year to ensure they have stock to sell in 2004.

"This means that Group 1 animals are selling for huge premiums, which we are increasingly concerned about.

"It would be better if DEFRA adopted a new timescale, which allows breeders to buy Type 2 animals this year, meaning the selection pressure is not just confined to genotype."

A spokesman for DEFRA says it is aware of the industry concerns and that it wil consult about the issue shortly.

Mr McLeans concerns have been raised, despite the breed registering the highest price for a ram sold in the UK at the Scottish national sale at Lanark market two weeks ago.

The 88,000gns call for Claybury Istabraq beats the previous record of 85,000gns for a Blackface at Lanark three years ago. The lamb, scrapie genotyped ARR/ARR (Type 1), was from the Shrewsbury-based brother and sister team of John and Hannah Draper.

The February-born lamb, from an embryo fertilised by Green Golden Boy and out of an Annan Born Free daughter, was sold to the sales judge, John Forsyth, Glenside, Maybole. The Drapers, who started their 20-strong flock of ewes in 1991, are both studying agriculture at Newcastle University.

The trend for big premiums for group 1 tups continued at the English national sale last week and the Welsh national sale at Llandovery market, Carmarthen-shire, this week, says Mr McLean.

Clee, Tompkinson & Franciss auctioneer Gareth Griffiths says pedigree breeders looked to buy Group 1 rams only at the Welsh event. "Commercial buyers are not so bothered about genotype, but the best sheep in the right scrapie category at the Welsh national were at a premium.

"Theres not enough good sheep in that category this year. Hope-fully there will be more next year."

Breeders set a new record for the sale with a 8000gns call for another ram lamb from the Draper family. The Type 1 scrapie-genotyped Milnbank sired ram lamb sold to J C Gould (Woodmarsh). The Claybury consignment of seven ram lambs averaged £2322 taking the top three ram lamb prices. &#42