Farm inspections, whether for Cross Compliance or Farm Assurance may be the bane of many sheep farmers’ lives, but they need not be and can actually turn out to be beneficial.
A bit of preparation prior to a visit is all that’s needed to ease the stress and reduce the chance of getting a non-compliance, according to Nick Davies, SAI Global beef and lamb scheme manager. “It’s amazing when you look at the most common reasons for non compliance they are often for the simplest of things that could be easily rectified,” he says.
For example, the most common pitfall is with medicine records, explains Mr Davies. “Often withdrawal dates haven’t been recorded and animals not identified and these are simple things that should be recorded.
“It’s all about being prepared, and when administering drugs making sure all the paperwork is up to date, and getting everyone on the farm disciplined to recording. Although 70% of our farmers have no non-conformances which shows how proactive membership is, a proportion still does.”
Health plans for sheep/beef are the second largest non-compliance area. “It’s not that people don’t have health plans in place, it’s just that they often can’t find it, it’s incomplete or, it just hasn’t been reviewed.”
And it’s simple things like health plans and medicine records that sheep and beef farmer Stuart Hutchings, Leominster, Herefordshire makes sure he has up to date prior to inspections.
“As soon I know an inspector is coming I check the medicine cupboard and make sure they are all within date and check that everything has been correctly recorded in the medicine book and that withdrawal dates are down.
“It’s like the inspection is a prick to the conscience, as it makes sure you have everything in place,” adds Mr Hutchings.
Other common areas of non-conformance include being unable to provide a written manure management plan, medicines inappropriately stored, planned biosecurity measures not in place and dog and cat worming routines not recorded, says Mr Davies.
“Some of the things are easy to fall foul of, for example a farmer may have left a bottle of wormer by the race when drenching, but this is classed as being inappropriately stored.
“And with planned biosecurity measures it’s amazing how many people still use Jeyes fluid instead of a Defra approved disinfectant. These are all things people can easily rectify and which they often do rectify there and then when the inspector points it out.”
Another common pitfall is unsafe housing – which can be classed as broken gates and cubicles to broken tin sides on sheds. “Having unsafe housing pointed out is important as this could prevent injury and as a result, potential welfare issues. So to have an inspection every 18 months is not a lot of money when you can prevent injury and potentially deaths.”
And having an inspection is something Mr Hutchings views as a continuous improvement tool. “Each year when we have an inspection it makes us think of areas we may need to improve. Nothing is ever perfect, but each time we will always try and be better.”
Mr Hutchings says he walks the farm before an inspection. “I look at things such as handling facilities to make sure there are no broken railings I also make sure feed storage is all fine and records are up to date. It doesn’t take too long, but a bit of preparation can help prevent any non-conformances being raised.”
There are elements of the farm assurance inspection that could also affect cross compliance, adds Mr Davies. “Having a regular inspection as part of Farm Assurance helps keep farmers up to speed and makes them aware of potential issues that, if they were to get a cross compliance inspection could affect the Single Farm Payment.”
Top 10 non-compliance areas
1. Inadequate/incomplete medicine record
2. Inadequate/incomplete health plans for sheep
3. Inadequate/incomplete written manure management plans
4. Medicines inappropriately stored
5. Inadequate planned biosecurity measures
6. No records of dog and cat worming procedures
7. Housing which could cause injury and distress
8. Inadequate/incomplete purchased feed records
9. Inadequate handling facilities
10. Feed stored in unclean conditions with potential for contamination