Farmers will be able to more accurately age sheep after a vote by the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) that allows Member States greater clarity on sheep going into the food chain – a clear result of NFU efforts spanning over many years.
The vote result – which was revealed on the 1 February – will pave the way for the UK Government to allow farmers, market operators and abattoir owners to use a cut-off date rather than have the additional burden of checking the teeth of sheep to determine whether it is over 12 months old. This, in turn, indicates whether the carcass needs to be split to remove the spinal cord, which is required by the regulation.
Evidence provided by the NFU, and subsequent work calling for a simplification of the system for the livestock industry, demonstrates how the use of a set date provides an accurate and streamlined approach in ageing procedures for the entire supply chain.
A FSA report on this topic released in 2010 stated: “Ageing by dentition check is an imprecise process as the first incisor can erupt at any point between 9 and 15 months of age.”
NFU national livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “We are thrilled to see the UK Government supporting the Commission on this issue. The NFU has been persistent in highlighting the importance of clearer and simpler way of ageing lambs.
“Livestock farmers know well that checking teeth has never been the most efficient or accurate way of determining the animals age. This flexibility is long overdue so I’m extremely pleased that we finally have a common-sense approach.
“Part of the evidence we supplied showed that sheep splitting unnecessarily can devalue a carcass by as much as 40%.
“We look forward to working with Defra, the FSA and the supply chain to ensure we implement these changes as quickly as possible. There is no reason why we can’t see the cut-off date of 31 May being applied from 2018.”