Frustration as Government Confirms Sheep Ageing Rules Not to Change

In a disappointing move, the UK Government has confirmed that it will not be introducing a change to sheep ageing rules for the purposes of TSE controls.

Defra had indicated in early March that it was likely to delay rule changes due to Brexit uncertainty.

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 teeth 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 will not change the ageing method at this time.  Importantly, NFU Scotland understands that Scottish Government has put draft legislation in place that would allow a move to a fixed date on which to base age that can be quickly put in place if required.  NFU Scotland will now push for the change to be introduced for next season.

NFU Scotland Livestock Committee Chairman Jimmy Ireland said: “The official announcement from DEFRA that it plans to delay the implementation of changes to sheep ageing for the purposes of TSE controls is no surprise, given its statement in March, but continues to be a source frustration.  

“Farmers and crofters in Scotland want to move away from the practice of checking teeth to a system which provides greater certainty for those marketing lambs.

“The small bit of good news is that the Scottish Government has undertaken the necessary steps to implement the regulation required to enable a change in this area, but we need to see the UK Government move to introduce this at a UK level.  

“While the change has been delayed, NFU Scotland will be seeking an agreement on how to administer a change so that it can be implemented as soon as reasonably possible.  

“This is yet another area where Brexit uncertainty is having an effect on enabling positive change for businesses across Scotland.”


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 58/19

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