By Jeremy Hunt
AUCTIONEERS fear Draconian measures affecting the sale and movement of livestock could be imposed on markets as a result of the foot-and-mouth outbreak, without thorough consultation with auction companies and farmers.
Many firms are already undertaking an overhaul of their practices, anticipating legislation that will cover future livestock movements.
But there are concerns that not enough time will be devoted to the practicalities of change.
Richard Morris of Penrith Farmers and Kidds said that auctioneers were taking a hard look at the way animals were traded and what lessons could be learned from foot-and-mouth.
He added that his company was undertaking a “root to the branch” evaluation of its livestock selling procedures.
Many firms said they have a good idea of the measures the government was considering, but believed that an open debate should begin sooner rather than later.
Among reforms, it was expected that there would be a limit on the number of times sheep or lambs can appear in markets although no one knows how this would be policed.
Individual electronic identification for every sheep in the UK might also be considered, although most farmers and auctioneers feel it would impose an almost unworkable system, because of the sheer size of the national flock of 18.5m breeding ewes.
David Brown, secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers Association which represents 183 sale centres, said a letter had already been posted to Jim Scudamore, the governments chief vet.
“We know that government plans to introduce legislation will not only affect the selling and transportation of stock, but will inevitably affect livestock producers.
The LAA said that the sale and movement of livestock through auction marts was “completely transparent”.
“By that I mean that nothing can be hidden. The auction mart books in stock from the vendor and takes payment off the purchaser.
“Coupled with existing movement records, the system provides an efficient method of traceability.”