31 August 2001

Ulster sheep sales go-ahead

COMMERCIAL sheep sales have been given the go-ahead from next Monday (Sep 3) in Northern Ireland, marking a return to near normality since the provinces four outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease last spring.

"Since extensive blood testing of over 430,000 sheep has shown no signs of the virus is present here, I am prepared to allow sales to resume under strict conditions," agriculture minister, Brid Rodgers announced on Tuesday (Aug 29).

Sheep sales will be allowed only under the supervision of department of agriculture officials and must be on approved premises. All stock must be correctly identified and have a specific movement licence. And markets may not be used by any other species on the same day.

Mrs Rodgers added that farm to farm collections would also be permitted again, though hauliers would have to be specifically licensed. The 20-day movement standstill on all species moving to new farms is being retained to limit the spread of any disease which might occur. &#42

The move has been welcomed by the Ulster Farmers Union, which has been lobbying hard for a resumption of sheep sales. "This is a significant step forward," said president, Douglas Rowe. "Obviously the threat of foot-and-mouth is still very real with the ongoing cases in Great Britain, so the industry must take all necessary precautions."

* Co Antrim farmer, Robert Herbison, has been fined £750 and ordered to pay £234 costs after pleading guilty to removing an ear tag from a steer which had been attached under a Tuberculosis control order. An animal presented for slaughter last September purported to be a Hereford steer, but was in fact a Simmental type. Investigations by the NI Department of Agriculture and Rural Development found that the ear tag had been forced open and resealed.