NFU Scotland has written to Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) Secretary of State Michael Gove, calling on him to support a change to European rules on TSE (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy) controls. This is expected in February. The regulation requires the removal of Specified Risk Material (SRM) from the carcases of all sheep slaughtered for human consumption. The parts of a sheep presently specified as SRM vary between sheep aged under 12 months and sheep aged over 12 months.

However, sheep are only identified as being older than 12 months through time-consuming and inaccurate dentition inspections of each sheep's mouth to check for the emergence of permanent incisors.

In writing to Mr Gove, President Andrew McCornick said: "The proposed amendment would permit other methods to identify the age of sheep. This welcome move would give regulators the flexibility to use a method best suited to the UK industry.

"The current method of checking teeth for permanent incisor eruption is costly and inaccurate. Industry has previously explored alternative methods including using a cut-off date each year, after which animals would be regarded as being older than 12 months.

"The proposed amendment would not change the current requirement in the UK to split carcasses of sheep over 12 months to remove the spinal cord - undoubtedly one of the biggest costs to the UK sheep industry."

Market round-up

United Auctions sold 510 store heifers at Stirling on Wednesday to average 212.1p per kg (-7.6p on the week) and 740 store, beef-bred bullocks to level at 219.1p (-6.6p). Seventy-eight store, B&W bullocks averaged 149.5p (+0.7p) and 19 store bulls levelled at 196.7p (no comparison).

C&D Auction Marts Ltd sold six prime heifers in Dumfries on Wednesday to a top of 232p and an average of 195.3p, while a prime bullock fetched 187p. Seven prime bulls sold to 153p and averaged 143p.

In the rough ring 56 beef cows averaged 123p and 56 dairy cows levelled at 107p.

The firm also sold 972 prime hoggs to a top of £90.50 per head and 206p per kg to average 185p (+7p).

The 399 cast sheep forward saw heavy ewes sell to £143.50 for Texels and average £65, while light/export-type ewes peaked at £69.50 for Cheviots and levelled at £41.

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 1632 prime hoggs in Newton Stewart on Wednesday to a top of £99.50 and 211.9p to average 180.1p.

There were also 97 heavy ewes that sold to £94 for Charolais and averaged £62.72, while 96 light ewes peaked at £76 for Lleyns and levelled at £38.43.