NFU Scotland has asked Scottish Government to consider a new approach to flock inspections that could see official visits fit around routine gatherings planned by the producer.
Each year, the Scottish Government is obliged to carry out a number of sheep counts and identification checks. These require producers to gather and present animals for inspection, often from vast areas, in difficult weather conditions and at very short notice. That process clearly places pressure on farm routines and staff, particularly on hill units and in crofting areas where common grazings are used.
The Union is calling on the Scottish Government to consider giving sheep keepers the option of indicating to officials when routine gatherings of sheep are likely to take place in order to better facilitate any inspections that may be planned. It would also help avoid sheep being gathered at sensitive and crucial times in the sheep calendar, such as tupping and lambing.
NFU Scotland’s President Nigel Miller said:
“Every year sheep farmers, particularly those on hill ground or on common grazings, raise their concerns over being asked to gather sheep at short notice, sometimes at lambing or tupping time and occasionally in conditions that can be difficult for man and beast.
“In extensive areas, any gathering takes a lot of time, effort and staff and such inspections can often coincide with poor weather or busy periods doing other farm work such as harvest or silage. On common grazings, collecting an individual croft’s sheep for inspection can require the assistance of the whole crofting community to gather and separate out animals.
“NFUS is suggesting to Scottish Government that to assist farmers but still allow officials to meet their obligations, there is a more pragmatic route that would allow inspections to be focussed on notified periods when sheep are normally gathered on those hill units selected for inspection.
“That approach would significantly ease the pressure on farm management, support animal welfare and speed the whole inspection procedure.
“We appreciate that in many cases such a level of co-ordination may not always be possible. However, we believe a more joined-up approach to inspections of common grazings and extensive hill farms that sees official visits match the producer’s designated gathering window is both feasible and desirable.”
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