Welsh livestock farmers who say the six-day movement standstill rule is severely hampering their ability to trade are leading a campaign for approved on-farm isolation units.
Currently, farmers can’t move sheep and cattle on or off their farms for six days after animals have been brought on to their holding.
The rule was introduced as a disease control measure in the wake of the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.
But for farmers like Stuart Morris, who runs a flock of pedigree Lleyn ewes in Powys, the restriction means he must avoid key markets and at times accept low prices when trade is poor to avoid returning sheep back to his farm.
For example, he avoids Ruthin market because it is held four days after the market at Ross-on-Wye.
“It would be too much of a risk to book animals into Ruthin because I might have to bring an animal back from Ross, if for instance it was lame, and that would put me on standstill for six days. It means that I have to travel further to Exeter instead,” said Mr Morris.
“If every farm could have its own approved indoor isolation area and isolation field we could keep trading without increasing the risk of disease spreading”
He and other farmers in Brecon and Radnor – a region with a high concentration of livestock – are leading a campaign to convince the Welsh government to allow the creation of approved quarantine facilities on farms. Currently, such a facility can only be approved for breeding rams.
“If every farm could have its own approved indoor isolation area and isolation field we could keep trading without increasing the risk of disease spreading,” said Mr Morris, of Wernoog, near Clyro.
Isolation units would not only satisfy regulation, but also improve farm biosecurity, he suggested.
“If you are isolating animals you have the time to observe them before introducing them to the main flock or herd. It is a positive all round and it could be done at virtually no cost to government,” he said.
Mr Morris, NFU Cymru Brecon and Radnor County Chairman, acknowledged that the Welsh government might have reservations amid concerns about how such units could be policed. But he believed control could be achieved through a system of spot checks.
The government has already held a series of workshops to consider how quarantine units could work in Wales.
It has now confirmed that it will hold a public consultation this year with a view to introducing these units before the end of 2016, although whether these units could be on farm is not clear.