If you transport livestock, regardless of how frequently and for how many years you have been doing it previously, you must now past a test to prove your competence.
Like it or not, the long-threatened legislation is now is place across the EU and will be fully enforced in the UK from the end of April. Simon Wragg looks at who will be affected and what it takes to comply with the law.
Up to 90 per cent of people transporting animals by road could already be in breach of new EU rules that came into force on January 5 this year.
Council Regulation (EC) no. 1/2005 sets out new requirements for the welfare of animals during transport and related operations.
And while Defra has signalled enforcement will be moderate until April 30 – in acknowledgement of the difficulty recent disease outbreaks such as foot-and-mouth and bluetongue have caused the farming sector – many moving stock may already be in breach of the rules.
While much of the detail affects anyone moving animals in conjunction with an economic activity – whether business or pleasure and including farm livestock, poultry, working dogs, domesticated animals and horses – it will hit those embarking on a return journey of 65km (approximately 40 miles) or more hardest.
At the very least farmers, stockmen, hauliers and owners will be required to sit a written test in a bid to gain a Certificate of Competence. Registration alone, excluding any training needing to be given, costs from £17 per species and farmers can expect to pay nearer £47 per species to comply.
Hamish Waugh of the National Sheep Association suggests most producers will have to be tested. “From the man who moves animals to market 20 miles away on a weekly basis to another who goes to a breeding sale once a year; all will be made to comply,” he said.
This regulation has been in the pipeline for well over a year but, for many, the devil is in the detail.
The two key aspects to the regulation are what constitutes an economic activity and the distance/time of any journey by road animals undertake.
Although a thorough breakdown is given on Defra’s website – www.defra.gov.uk – ‘economic activity’ extends to commercial hauliers, farmers and pets when related to an economic activity such as commercial showing or sales and animals being transported in order to be sold as part of a business.
However, exclusions exist such as movement to, or under the order of, veterinary surgeons.
“What most people don’t realise is the limits refer to a return journey – either 65km or that extending over eight hours by road,” said Mr Waugh.
“If you take sheep to market 25 miles away and you don’t hold a Certificate of Competence, you forfeit the right to bring stock home if the price is poor on the day, as your total journey is over 65km or 40 miles.
“So far about 9,000 people have applied to take the relatively simple test that will legally permit them to transport animals.
“However, taking into account all the drivers and staff within the variety of businesses affected, that may only be about 10 per cent of predicted numbers.”
NFU officials have similar concerns over numbers, but concede the sector has to get on and abide by the Brussels-inspired regulation.
“It’s not something the NFU wanted in the first place, but the industry has very little choice but to comply,” said a spokeswoman.
“Many of those who move animals by road – some who have done so for many years – feel patronised by the need to undertake the written test, especially in a country that has among the highest welfare standards across the EU.”
Defra, and its counterparts in Scotland and Wales, have nominated industry training bodies to undertake and adjudicate the testing programme.
In England, the National Proficiency Testing Council and Lantra Awards are among those that offer competence assessments through a network of county-based training providers such as agricultural and technical colleges. North of the border this is undertaken by the Scottish Skills Testing Service.
Those wishing to move animals by road over 65km, but under eight hours register to take the Certificate of Competence test – a series of 27 multiple-choice questions of which 21 must be correct to pass. Costs are typically £17 per species – although beef and sheep can be taken as one unit – to register plus the local training centre fee for tuition. On-farm training and assessment is available, although costs vary widely.
Those looking to undertake journeys in excess of eight hours are required to set the theory test and, in addition, have a practical examination of livestock handling and, occasionally, driving capability.
The variation in costs has seen some industry bodies react quickly. The British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) is offering wool producers training and the test for £47 versus £67 for non-producers at its main centres at Callander, Exeter and Newtown. Bradford is expected to come on stream shortly.
The welcome news for those needing to undertake the Certificate of Competence is many candidates have completed the questions within the allotted hour with ease. NPTC figures suggest a pass rate of 98 per cent to date.
“This is a very straight-forward assessment which farmer should not find difficult,” said BWMB’s Colin McGregor, who is setting up assessments for British Wool Training.
Once passed, farmers will be issued with a certificate and ID card – the latter to be carried when transporting stock by road to aid on-the-spot checks carried out by Trading Standards officials or others.
Defra has delayed the enforcement date until April 30. However, that is only applicable where producers can demonstrate undue hardship from the recent outbreaks on animal disease in the UK, explained a spokeswoman.
Mr Waugh has wider concerns. With an EU veterinary inspection likely in February, the UK could be found in breach of the initial EU-wide January 5 enforcement date, he suggests.
Government officials have been quick to reply: “As far as we aware the commission has been approached regarding the UK’s unique circumstances and have been informed of the decision to extend the deadline for compliance until April 30,” said a spokeswoman.
Farmers must not confuse the need to acquire a Certificate of Competence with Transporter Authorisations. The latter applies to anyone who transports animals over 65km in connection with an economic activity and must, therefore, have a valid Transporter Authorisation.
Unlike Certificates of Competence that – to date – last a lifetime, Transport Authorisations vary in length up to five years and are currently free of charge. There are two types – Type 1 (short journey) applies to journeys over 65km but with a total journey time of under eight hours and type 2 (long journey) covers those over eight hours and exporting animals by road.
Type 2 authorisation carries additional requirements – vehicles must be inspected and approved to meet minimum standards; vehicles can be traced, movements recorded and the driver can be contacted en route; and contingencies are made in the event of an emergency, among others.
To increase awareness of the new regulation, Defra has placed large notices in the farming and equine press as well as funding a series of roadshows held at auction marts and coordinated by ADAS last month.
Farmers must act quickly, said Mr Waugh: “I believe Defra has underestimated the numbers who will need to comply and the extended deadline (April 30) is not all that far away.”
Given estimates that just 10 per cent of producers have completed the tests and many may not be able to prove genuine hardship from disease outbreaks – such as not having the opportunity to move stock at an earlier date – the remaining 90 per cent moving animals may already be foul of the law.
AT 21 farmer's son Roger Pederson of Daventry, Northamptonshire, was one of the first to take a test for a Certificate of Competence by taking advantage of NPTC's promotional offer at last year's Royal Show.
He opted to undertake the combined beef and sheep test and also separate species tests for pigs and poultry.
“We've two farms carrying 400 ewes and 200 beef cattle in addition to arable ground, so we were bound to need to be tested at some point,” he said. “I thought, why not get on with it? It was all relatively straightforward – nothing there to trick you at all.
“The questions asked you to visualise various situations and scenarios and answer questions on the welfare of animals and transport.
“In my opinion it was all common sense. I don't see why it's needed, really. It's as if we've all just got to jump through hoops just because someone else thinks we should.
“We have the RSPCA looking out for animal welfare, among others, so why can't they be left to look after monitoring conditions and husbandry?
“It's not as if you would do anything deliberate to harm animals anyway, as they're your livelihood at the end of the day.
“Since passing the tests I've got my certificates through and the card to put in my wallet to show should I be stopped somewhere.
“I'm not doing anything different than before – like I said, it's common sense.
“It wasn't anything to fear at the end of the day. I just get on with it, but now have a piece of card to carry around with me to say I can do what I do.”