The National Sheep Association (NSA) has urged Defra to test the effectiveness of the sheep movement reporting systems in England following ongoing concern that the records held may not be adequately up to date and accurate in the event of a disease outbreak.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “Although progress was made in introducing an electronic sheep movement database in England, two years on we are concerned over the accuracy of the central information held, with our members suggesting movement records aren’t up to date. The whole purpose of the database is to ensure full traceability of sheep movements, to allow prompt action in the event of an exotic disease outbreak such as foot-and-mouth or bluetongue.
“We now have electronic movement databases in all four UK nations so we should be in a strong position – but our own Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), through its disease surveillance work, has indicated exotic diseases present a serious threat to the UK and we are worried the system is not as robust as it needs to be.”
NSA is concerned that in the event of an outbreak inaccurate details on the ARAMS system would make traceability, back to the source and out to animals moved, very difficult. This would present a major challenge in containing any disease.
Mr Stocker continues: “Given the catastrophic impact these diseases can have, bringing the threat of mass culls, trade disruption to our essential export markets and a reduction in the welfare and performance of our flocks, we must ensure the systems we have in place are accurate and will stand up to scrutiny. We cannot afford to wait until we are faced with an outbreak to find out if the sheep movement recording system is fit for purpose.”
NSA has called for Defra to carry out a ‘dummy run’, to interrogate the ARAMS systems and relate movements back to the farm. Additionally, while all established national databases need to be checked for accuracy, NSA has also requested that the Government’s overall UK Animal Movement Licencing System (AMLS) be looked at to ensure cross border movements are being captured correctly.
“A considerable amount of money has been invested into EID systems by the whole industry – not just the Government with the electronic sheep movement database but also farm businesses, auction markets and processors. Given the level of threat indicated by the APHA disease surveillance work, the industry must have reassurance this investment is protecting us by accurately tracing sheep movements,” Mr Stocker says.