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Arbitrary Sheep Ageing Rules not to change as a result of Brexit Uncertainty

NFU Scotland deeply frustrated with last minute U-turn on Government policy

The Scottish sheep sector this week received confirmation from the UK Government that it was unlikely to introduce a change to sheep ageing for the purposes of TSE controls.

The ageing issue is hugely important to Scottish producers because carcases of sheep which are regarded as 12 months or over are subject to splitting which can bring a significant reduction in the price paid to the farmer or crofter.

The UK Government had previously agreed with industry that it would move away from using dentition as a guide to age. Permanent incisor eruption in a sheep’s mouth is currently used as confirmation that sheep are 12 months or over.

The new system, which NFU Scotland supported, would have been more closely linked to traceability systems and seen lambs going to slaughter prior to 30 June deemed to be under 12 months, while any old season hoggs marketed after 30 June would be regarded as over 12 months in age.  Under the new system, sheep producers would have received far greater certainty on the price they would receive for their sheep from the abattoir.

However, the UK Government has indicated that because of the uncertainty over Brexit, it does not want to change the ageing method at this time, despite making a number of commitments to farmers that it would change processes.

NFU Scotland Livestock committee Chairman Jimmy Ireland said: “This sudden change of tack from the UK Government is more than disappointing, it’s baffling!

“The UK Government had made a commitment last year to the sheep sector that it would move to a new system of sheep ageing, replacing years of arbitrary regulation with a sensible method for ageing sheep which would have delivered certainty to farmers and crofters over their possible market returns.

“Now, the UK Government is saying that implementing this change during Brexit could have implications for our future relationship with the European Union. We’ve known that the UK was due to leave the European Union this March for more than two years now, yet DEFRA hadn’t told us that this would be a problem.

“We are facing the bizarre situation where we could bring in sensible rules on this if we were remaining in the European Union, but because we are due to leave in a matter of weeks, we are stuck with an outdated and costly system.

“The UK Government has led us down the garden path on this, promising a sensible change to our sheep ageing rules early this year only to renege at the last possible moment. NFU Scotland will continue to advocate on this and all other issues but it’s clear that a lack of certainty over the United Kingdom’s future trading relationship with the European Union is making any forward progress a challenge.

“I understand the Scottish Government are as disappointed as we are by this sudden and unilateral reversal by the UK Government. We will continue our discussions with the Scottish Government about the flexibility available to Scotland, as well as ensuring that Scotland is ready to implement this change whenever it can reasonably take place.”   Ends


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 30/19


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