Scottish Sheep Industry Faces Welfare Crisis

NFU Scotland has warned that the Scottish sheep industry is facing a welfare crisis in the wake of FMD.

The union is currently in discussions with the Scottish Executive over a welfare disposal scheme for lighter lambs that would normally be exported to Europe but are prevented from doing so because of the export ban.

Urgent action is needed to avoid a catastrophe over winter, with around a million hill lambs currently stranded on farms and eating what little grass is left as the cold weather is closing in.

Even if the grass is sufficient for the lambs and the weather holds out, their mothers will not have enough feed to make it through the winter. The resulting loses in Scotland's breeding stock could threaten the future of the Scottish sheep industry.

NFUS president Jim McLaren said: "We are in a truly horrendous position. Farmers have reared and cared for these animals and are now watching a welfare crisis unfold in front of their eyes.

"Unless we have livestock sales and Europe exports re-starting in days, which is almost impossible, we need emergency action to avoid a welfare catastrophe.

"The foot and mouth crisis has been forced on farmers by appalling lapses of biosecurity on UK Government-licensed facilities.

"The penalty being paid by farmers was already horrendous and it has now taken an even worse turn. We need Government assistance now and we're working with the Scottish Government on developing a disposal scheme to see if we can head off this disaster."