Sheep age decision good news for sector: UFU

Crosby Cleland
Crosby Cleland

The decision to relax requirements relating to the ageing of sheep taken by the European Commission Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed is good news for the sector, according to the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).

The decision will enable the UK government to work with the sheep industry to implement a cut-off date to estimate whether a sheep is under 12 months or not.

Current rules require that mouths are checked and the carcases of sheep thought to be over 12 months are split to remove the spinal cord, something that devalues the carcase.

Ulster Farmers’ Union beef and lamb chairman, Crosby Cleland, said: “Existing sheep TSE regulations have required that sheep be mouthed prior to slaughter and this has been a major inconvenience for some time. It is not a wholly accurate way of assessing the age of young sheep and a lot of time and money has been wasted complying with this requirement.”

The UK farming unions have been calling for reform in this area for several years and proposed a cut-off date of 31st May to DEFRA and Food Standards Agency.

“We are now in a position where industry can work with government to agree a cut-off date for sheep considered to be under 12 months of age. Anything born in the year previous and before this date should not need to be mouthed,” Mr Cleland added.

Mr Cleland says farmers are keen to work with government to implement this change and there is no reason why it shouldn’t come into effect quickly.

He concluded: “It is crucial that we identify areas where the UK sheep industry can be made more competitive. This is a step in the right direction. It will help to make the sector more efficient, reduce costs and add value to carcases.”