Welfare slaughter scheme draws large number of entrants
By Alistair Driver
THE Intervention Board has been overwhelmed by the huge demand from farmers wanting to enter animals into the governments welfare slaughter scheme.
About 1500 farmers a day have called a hotline to inquire about the Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme since it opened on Friday. The scheme aims to remove animals suffering welfare problems caused by foot-and-mouth movement restrictions.
The 30-line call centre has been inundated and farmers have not been getting through, a board spokeswoman admitted. "Farmers are absolutely desperate. There have been backlogs but this is inevitable in the early days of the scheme."
She asked farmers not to phone up to check on the progress of their applications as this is adding to the burden. "Applications will be processed as quickly as possible."
By Wednesday morning (Mar 28) no animals had been slaughtered in the 14 abattoirs signed up to the scheme, although they had been slaughtered on farms.
Farmers will receive about 90% of market value from the government for the animals slaughtered under the scheme. Farm minister, Nick Brown, who described this as "generous", raised his estimate of the schemes eventual cost by £50m in its first few days. His original estimate on Thursday (Mar 22) was £150m. But addressing the House of Commons on Tuesday (Mar 27), he said: "It is now likely to be in excess of £200m."
David Croston, head of the Meat and Livestock Commissions sheep strategy council, said too many farmers had been unable to get through to the hotline.
The board had not been sufficiently prepared for the massive response from farmers, he said. "We need to see that adequate resources are put in place."
The MLC also expressed concern at the lack of disinfection sites available. All vehicles used to carry livestock under long distance licence must be cleaned and disinfected before and after each job.
MLC commercial services manager Tony Blackburn said: "We are calling on anyone with the facilities to consider opening a disinfection site. I have heard of cases where people have been forced to do a round trip of more than 100 miles to clean and disinfect sheep that are only eight miles from the holding."
lPayment rates, page 22. *