Breaking cattle link is step backward, argues union

NFU Scotland said the move was 'controversial and unpopular'. Picture: John Devlin

NFU Scotland said the move was 'controversial and unpopular'. Picture: John Devlin

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The current “linked holdings” system which allows cattle to be moved between different farms used by the same business without the need to inform the central cattle tracing system (CTS) is to be brought to a close at the end of the year.

And a new online system was revealed yesterday by rural economy secretary, Fergus Ewing.

Many cattle keepers around Scotland will now be concerned about the replacement system

Andrew McCornick, NFUS

Claiming that the new arrangements would add little extra bureaucracy, Ewing stressed that they would help ensure protection against the spread of disease.

However, NFU Scotland termed the changes “controversial and unpopular” – adding that it had been battling to keep the existing arrangements in place since 2007.

Under the current system, keepers can register holdings that they regularly use with the authorities, meaning cattle movements between these “linked holdings” do not require to be electronically reported – although they do have to be noted in the farm’s herd register.

Under the new rules, although keepers will still be allowed to move cattle within their business without reporting the movements to the CTS, they will now need to register the movements on the ScotMoves website.

“This does not require any additional information to be recorded other than moves that cattle keepers are already recording in their holding register,” said Ewing.

He added that to quell fears of possible penalties for inadvertently failing to log the details properly, first time breaches incurred by farmers in 2017 would not result in a financial reduction to their direct payments.

However, NFU Scotland vice-president Andrew McCornick said that the industry had been aware that the Scottish Government had been looking to end the use of linked holdings for some time.

“Many cattle keepers around Scotland will now be concerned about the replacement system, its reliance on figures being accurately recorded on a central database and what that means for potential penalties and cross-compliance,” he said.

He added that, as the changes represented a fundamental shift in recording requirements, the union expected details of the new system to be sent to every cattle keeper in Scotland in the near future.

McCornick added that, while the cabinet secretary’s announcement that penalties would be waived for first time offences was a welcome response to union concerns, such flexibility should be maintained if the new system proved difficult to comply with – or prone to failure.

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