The Scrapie Monitoring Scheme (SMS) has been amended to allow for a new status that will support vital breeding sheep sales between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Around 9,000 breeding sheep move annually to NI but since the protocol came into effect at the end of 2020, only a very small number of sheep have been traded.
This new qualifying status is an amendment to existing EU trade rules to allow sheep imports into the EU single market, which includes NI, without full scrapie monitoring status.
The Scrapie Qualifying Status (SQS) will allow Scottish flocks to register straight away, but this must be done by 31 December 2021.
Once registered, flocks will move to the full scheme after three years of monitoring and the temporary scheme will close.
If a Scottish seller misses the 31 December deadline for SQS, it will take at least three years in the SMS to achieve ‘controlled risk status’ which would allow them to export to NI.
NFU Scotland has welcomed the introduction of this status as it would resume trade to NI, which is of particular importance to Scotland's Blackface sheep breeders.
The union's livestock policy manager, Hannah Baker said: “While this is an important breakthrough in restarting this valuable trade in breeding sheep, we urge all those to make themselves aware of the SMS rules which they will be required to meet as part of the SQS.
“Of note is the requirements around trading with non-SMS registered flocks and that if any animals are brought onto a holding from an unregistered farm they need to be kept separate or the SQS/SMS status is lost.
“Trading only with those signed up to the Scrapie Monitoring Scheme of the Qualifying Scheme may not be practical for some Scottish farmers and could limit the popularity of signing up for SQS.
“The SQS is an important and valuable step forward. While we have not been able to solve the trade issues for breeding sheep travelling to NI completely, this qualifying scheme has the potential to restart this valuable trade.”
The scrapie monitoring scheme is being facilitated by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) on behalf of Defra.