16 March 2001

Tough rules laid down for animal movement

By Hannah Velten

STRICT conditions imposed for MAFFs limited movement of livestock under licence scheme, announced last week, will limit the number of producers able to take advantage of the opportunity.

MAFF guidance shows two separate licences are available – the occupational licence, which allows producers to move animals within their premises on multiple journeys of less than 0.5km (0.3 miles), such as the daily movement of dairy cows from milking parlour to pasture. These licences will be available in the whole country except within 3km of infected premises.

Local movement licences allow producers to move a group of animals on a single day on their premises, between two places which are no more than 5km (3 miles) apart as the crow flies or a total journey of 10km (6 miles). This licence will cover bringing ewes and cattle into lambing/calving sheds, but they are only available outside infected areas.

All vets questioned by farmers weekly believe movement licences are needed for welfare reasons (see panel) and that conditions restricting animal movements are strict enough.

"The licences address a welfare need and there is little risk of spreading disease when restrictions are followed to the letter and travelling distances are so limited," says Devon-based dairy vet, Richard Sibley.

The biggest risk factor is likely to be vets coming onto farm when supervising a local movement, as all animals to be moved and those animals in contact with them must be inspected for signs of foot-and-mouth, says Mark White, a Humberside-based pig vet.

"Vets coming onto farm could be handling hundreds of animals on different sites," he adds.

However, movement restrictions are extremely tight and may preclude many producers from moving stock (see panel).

According to Mr White, the priority is to stop disease spread, but he believes that licences will only benefit pig producers with one-site units.

"Most indoor multi-site units have distance between them to stop spread of disease, so cannot move animals under licence.

"However, even when producers can move animals in a single movement, the fact that all species must then stay put for 21 days after reaching their destination, will be of limited help to pigs as this does not fit pig production cycles."

When applicable, MAFF states both licences require roads to be crossed directly from side to side – the minimal distance across the road – however pigs must not be moved on foot and need transporting instead.

When travelling along a road, all species must be transported in a suitable vehicle, which is owned by the producer.

Independent sheep consultant, Lesley Stubbings, believes this fact will limit movement of large numbers of sheep within a single day. "When producers have to use their own trailers, time restrictions may mean local movements cannot be completed within 24 hours, especially when the vet has to check all animals no more than four hours before local movement."

MAFF insists on strict disinfectant precautions and when moving animals across a road, both gates leading to and off the road must have provision for disinfecting feet, using a foot bath or sponge/straw mats. Roads must also be washed and disinfected following crossing of animals.

Producers vehicles must contain enough absorbent material so there is no leakage onto roads during transport and vehicles must be cleaned and disinfected prior to use and immediately after each return to the off-loading point.

IN PANEL

Movement to safeguard welfare if:-

* Overcrowding in housing.

* Lack of forage in fields.

* No shelter from weather.

* Calved cows outdoors needing to be milked.

* Animals about to calve/lamb.

Other movement restrictions

* No inward movement on-farm of susceptible species for 21 days.

* No movement through fields not in producers ownership.

* Occupational Licence – No contact with susceptible animals, or the passing of any shed, yard, field or other place, owned by another producer, in which animals are kept or may be kept.

* Local Movement Licence – no contact with any susceptible animals not in producers care.

OTHER MOVEMENT RESTRICTIONS

&#8226 No movement through fields not in producers ownership.

&#8226 Occupational licence – No contact with susceptible animals, or the passing of any shed, yard, field or other place, owned by another producer, in which animals are kept or may be kept.

&#8226 Local movement licence – no contact with any susceptible animals not in producers care.

MOVEMENT TO SAFEGUARD WELFARE PERMITTEDIF:

&#8226 Overcrowding in housing.

&#8226 Lack of forage in fields.

&#8226 No shelter from weather.

&#8226 Calved cows outdoors needing to be milked.

&#8226 Animals about to calve/lamb.