29 June 2001
North-south divide for cattle farmers
By Shelley Wright and James Garner
ENGLISH farmers could wait months until the reopening of the Over Thirty Months Scheme despite an imminent resumption for producers in Scotland.
The slaughter scheme, for older cattle at risk from BSE, will re-open north of the border from mid-July, said Scottish rural affairs minister Ross Finnie.
Forecasts indicate a backlog of more than 30,000 cattle waiting to enter the slaughter scheme in Scotland alone due to foot-and-mouth restrictions.
The Scottish backlog could take about two months to clear. The reopening of the scheme was welcomed by the National Farmers Union Scotland.
“We have been pressing for this – at last farmers can plan. We want to see the scheme up and running as soon as possible,” said a spokeswoman.
Four weeks have passed since the last case of foot-and-mouth in Scotland.
But veterinary experts continue to voice concern about continued outbreaks of the disease on farms in England and Wales.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that the reopening of the scheme in England was a long way off.
The OTMS will not start again until after the last case of foot-and-mouth occurs in England and Wales, she said.
Rural Affairs Secretary has suggested that it could be autumn until foot-and-mouth is finally over. But some experts believe it could be much longer.
The National Farmers Union has called for an urgent a reopening of the scheme as over 100,000 cattle are awaiting slaughter on British farms.
NFU analysts expects this figure to rise sharply in coming weeks as dairy farmers look to cull old cows from their herds.
In a further statement, Mr Finnie indicated that it is likely to be some time before livestock auction marts are allowed to resume business in Scotland.
He made the comments at the National Farmers Union Scotland annual conference at Dunblane, Stirlingshire, on Thursday (28 June).
My veterinary advice is that livestock sales should not resume at the moment, he told conference delegates.
Although not ruling out some return of livestock auctions this year, Mr Finnies said auction firms should concentrate on sales using video links.
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