Farmer Focus: Call for more transparency in sheep market

Last Monday “the inspector called”, notifying me he had to carry out his sheep inspection within 48 hours. He was very professional, courteous and pleasant. He explained exactly what was required. We passed, which was a relief and reassuring to know that we are doing things correctly.

The weather has now turned, and all cattle are now housed apart from 40 cows and calves. Ewes have been tailed ready for tupping, received a fluke drench and an iodine, cobalt and selenium bolus, as we have known deficiencies.

Healthwise, England is Europe’s dirty neighbour – why we haven’t got a national BVD eradication scheme backed up with legislation is beyond me. It costs our cattle industry about £40m every year.

I am frustrated with the government at the moment. In my role with the NFU, I and others spend considerable amounts of unpaid time trying to move certain areas of our industry forward.

See also: Read more from the livestock farmer focus writers

However, it seems where bureaucracy that costs the farmer can be introduced, they are quick off the mark (EID in sheep), but where they could make changes for the benefit of the farmer, the job stops.

One of the issues the NFU and others have been trying to tackle for years is transparency within the sheep market – in particular the large number of sheep carcass dressing specifications, the different calculation of the hot/cold rebates, rounding down of weights in abattoirs and the standards applied, including carcass classification.

In a report carried out by the Commission of the European Communities in April 2013, the committee pointed out these were sources of concern. Issues such as these have been discussed for decades, yet nothing changes and there appears to be no reason why there’s resistance to bring sheepmeat in line with the government’s carcass classification schemes for beef and pork.

It may not be headline news, but it costs UK sheep farmers millions of pounds every year.

Simon Bainbridge farms a 650ha upland organic farm with 150 suckler cows and 1,500 breeding ewes with his wife, Claire, and his parents. Healthy, maternal livestock and quality feed is a priority.