31 August 2001

Trouble grows as marts are ordered to stay shut

By Robert Harris

LIVESTOCK farmers continue to face big problems moving stock this autumn after the government refused to allow auction marts to reopen and maintained tough controls through the busiest period in the sales calendar.

Rules for movement to slaughter or to the over 30-month scheme remain unchanged. But some limited commercial trading will now be allowed between farms.

Junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty explained the governments position as he announced the new arrangements to be introduced from next month across England and Wales in London on Tuesday.

"We need to ensure that, wherever there is a spark of the disease, we stamp it out as rapidly as possible. It is necessary for us to be very cautious. Although the volume of movements will inevitably increase as we extend the criteria for licensing movements from purely welfare to husbandry and commercial reasons, we will tighten the regime."

Foot-and-mouth risk will now be designated according to county, rather than area. These will be designated free, at risk and high risk counties, the latter including Cumbria, Northumberland and Powys.

Although much of the country will fall into the first category, no live auction marts will be permitted this autumn, said Lord Whitty. "We will need to look again at the possibility of live cattle markets in the free counties in the New Year."

But store cattle will, from Sept 17, be allowed to move through a collecting centre to a single prearranged destination. Previously, these centres could only be used for animals going to slaughter. Sheep will have to travel direct to the buyers farm.

Animal movements from free counties and within at risk ones will be limited to 250 miles and 150 miles, respectively, and will need a local authority licence.

Only cattle and pigs in high risk counties will need to be vet-checked, but all sheep will need to be inspected. DEFRA will foot the bill. However, sheep moving from or in high risk counties and parts of at risk ones will need to come from blood-tested flocks; this scheme is expected to begin in early October.

Although this will allow more sheep to be sold and will ease welfare problems, blood testing capacity is limited so not all farmers will benefit, Lord Whitty admitted. So the welfare disposal scheme has been extended from Sept 3 to include light lambs with no market outlet, set at £10 a lamb.

Multiple movements off-farm will be discussed further. "Not to allow any may well cause problems for farmers, but we need to minimise the risk," said Lord Whitty. But the 21-day rule will remain, so farmers moving stock on to their farm will not be able to move any off it again for three weeks.

All animals will need to be "reliably traceable", he added. Tagging was believed to be the favoured option, but it is understood that DEFRA will now favour a flock mark system, though it will have to persuade vets of the merits.

Stock movement summary

Farm to farm Cattle Pigs Sheep

movements

FC to and within FC 3 3 3

AR to and within AR 3 3 3**

HR to within same HR 3 3 3**

HR to different HR x x x

FC to AR 3 3 3

AR to FC x x x

AR to HR 3 3 3

AR/HR to IA x x x

*Excludes movements to slaughter for human consumption or under OTMS, where no change is envisaged.

Key: 3 = permitted, x = not permitted, FC = F&M-free counties, AR = at risk counties, HR = F&M high risk counties, IA = infected areas within F&M high risk counties,** = only from blood-tested flocks.