Scots OTMSto restart but long wait for English
FARMERS in England and Wales face a long wait for the reopening of the Over Thirty Months Scheme, despite an imminent resumption for producers in Scotland.
The slaughter scheme, designed to keep older BSE-risk cattle out of the food chain, will re-open north of the border from mid-July, Scottish rural affairs minister Ross Finnie announced this week.
Four weeks have passed since the last case of foot-and-mouth disease in Scotland and a massive backlog of cattle has built up on farms.
The reopening of the scheme was welcomed by Scottish farmers who have more than 30,000 older cattle waiting on holdings because of F&M restrictions.
An NFU Scotland spokeswoman said: "We have been pressing for this. We want to see the scheme up and running as soon as possible."
There is a backlog of 100,000 cattle in England and Wales, but F&M cases are still being confirmed almost daily.
NFU leaders in London said the scheme should be reopening urgently to ease a backlog of cattle. Analysts expect the figure to rise sharply in coming weeks as dairy farmers look to cull old cows from their herds.
Restrictions imposed because of F&M are driving a significant slice of the farming industry towards catastrophe, reveals an NFU survey of farmers in south-west England. Overstocking is a growing concern. One in three farms surveyed said they were 10% overstocked, 27% were over a fifth overstocked and 10% were 30% overstocked.
Nearly two-thirds of 350 farmers who responded to the questionnaire said they had insufficient fodder. More than half had already grazed fields intended for hay or silage, and 22% were already feeding next winters fodder. Farm income has fallen by an average of one third on all farms in the region, said producers.
Of those whose stock had been killed out for disease control 24% were ready to quit and a third of all respondents intended to cut back on stock numbers. But 18% said they intended to expand and only 6% of the overall sample indicated they would quit farming.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister Margaret Beckett has suggested that it could be autumn until F&M is finally over, but some experts believe it could be much longer.
Veterinary experts continue to voice concern about continued outbreaks of the disease on farms in Yorks and the Brecon Beacons.
A DEFRA spokeswoman said the reopening of OTMS in England and Wales was a long way off. "It will not start again until after the last case of F&M occurs in England and Wales." *