PLENTY OF time and an awful lot of patience will be needed for anyone wanting to use the national fallen stock scheme if my first experience is anything to go by, 

Having read that the National Fallen Stock Company expected a few teething problems, I was prepared for some difficulty in registering as a member.

However, having tried five times to contact the NFSCo on its first day of operation, Mon, Nov 22, I gave up and decided it was a job best put off until a collection was needed.

That I had hoped would be several weeks away once lambing was under way, but a dead store lamb on Monday (Nov 22) evening made joining the scheme an urgent matter.

So, with bank account details to hand, I rang again on Tuesday morning. After 10 minutes on hold joining up was put off until later.

 A further half an hour, three more attempts and another 10 minutes on hold later, I finally managed to register. I left calling back to request the phone number of a collection agent for a quieter time.

An hour later my call was answered in a matter of minutes, and I was given the phone number of the cheapest collector serving our area. This was a firm 50 miles from the farm, who would charge £15.30 to collect the lamb.

 But that proved a short distance compared with the next location I was referred to. Having called the collector I was told to contact their operating site, 170 miles and at least three hours away, in Somerset.

The best was yet to come. the gentleman who answered said he was unsure how the scheme was working and he would have to call me back. Within 10 minutes he did, but with bad news. The collector they intended to use in the area had yet to sign up, and they were unable to offer a service.

This meant yet another call to the NFSCo offices. This time, to avoid further delays, I asked for details of all collectors serving the area, along with their prices for collecting the lamb. These ranged from £22.50 to £25.

 A phone call to a more local contractor yielded a swift response and the promise of a return call to arrange collection. Within a few hours collection had been arranged for lunchtime on Wednesday.

So, with the lamb collected, a chance to reflect. Eventually, the service was swift and efficient, but the effort needed to achieve this was far beyond what it should have been. Why did NFSCo not know the first collector couldn’t offer a service in our area, and why did it take nearly two hours of phone calls to finally arrange collection?

Few producers will have the time or the patience it took to arrange this collection, but, hopefully, the service will improve in the weeks to come. Jonathan Long is FW deputy livestock editor and a sheep producer.