Archive Article: 2001/09/28

28 September 2001

DIFFERENCES between the pig and sheep industry make the imposition of a 21-day standstill on sheep movement impractical, argues the National Sheep Associations John Thorley,

In response to David Chennells, Mr Thorley points out that the rule is sensible and workable within the pig industry because pigs are produced intensively.

"However, most sheep production is extensive. Feed is taken to pigs, whereas sheep have to be moved to feed and grass growth is dependent on weather."

The rule would prevent the flexibility needed to move animals quickly from pasture.

Trading of sheep and pigs is also different because of production patterns. "Pig production is controlled so large batches of stock are ready to move at one time, usually to slaughter.

"Because of the relatively small numbers of sheep/producer and stratification based on grass growth, sheep are ready for sale in smaller batches and have to be moved longer distances down the country.

"It makes economic and practical sense to take sheep to collection points to make up bigger loads for transport and while they are there, why not auction them?

"Without markets, hauliers would have to collect sheep from individual farms, which would compromise the welfare of sheep collected first."

Mr Thorley agrees the scale of multiple movements suggested by Mr Chennells is unnecessary and unacceptable. "However, although in theory limiting sheep to one movement makes sense, when an agent cannot sell all stock because some animals are not up to specification it is better to take them to another market before the last resort abattoir."

Restricting movement to improve stock health is also fine in theory, says Mr Thorley. "But in practice, if a standstill had been implemented before foot-and-mouth, virus spread could still not have been controlled. Plumes of virus from pigs will travel distances, and given the right conditions could infect sheep before the disease is identified in the pig population."

Mr Thorley believes educating politicians and the public about the nature of the sheep industry should be a priority to show them the impracticalities of applying a 21-day standstill on the industry. &#42

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