The sheep sector is stepping up efforts to help inform farmers of the requirement to obtain a signed declaration to allow the future sale of animals destined for export.
The veterinary declaration will form a ‘statutory health attestation’ and will be required from 13 December 2023 to certify any exports of Products of Animal Origin (POAO) to the EU.
All non-assured keepers of sheep and other livestock consigning animals for slaughter should obtain a valid health attestation, the sector has said, as some parts of all animals slaughtered in the UK are exported to the EU.
A veterinary attestation template is available for use and should be completed and signed by farmers’ vets.
Farmers and vets must keep a copy of this declaration for their records and provide a copy to their livestock auction market or meat processor if asked.
The system for this information flowing through the supply chain as of 13 December is not yet clear.
However, the National Sheep Association (NSA), in collaboration with other industry groups, are seeking to inform farmers as details become available.
Obtaining a signed veterinary attestation must be done at least once in a 12-month period and can be combined with any other routine veterinary visit.
This can include government supported initiatives such as the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway in England or those carried out as part of certain farm assurance schemes.
The purpose is to comply with export requirements to verify the absence of notifiable diseases and provide general advice on farm biosecurity.
Traders and processors exporting products of animal origin to the EU or Northern Ireland must follow the requirements set out in EU Export Health Certificates.
The current system of farmer declarations can continue to be used as a source of evidence for the certification of the ‘regular vet visit’ until 13 December 2023.
After this date, independent attestations will be needed either via membership of a qualifying farm assurance scheme or from a valid veterinary declaration.
NSA chief executive, Phil Stocker said this rule change was likely to impact all sheep farmers regardless of whether sales are limited to breeding or store lambs.
He said: "The attestation will give evidence that at the time of the visit the farm was free from a number of stated notifiable diseases, and that there is a good standard of disease control and biosecurity. A standard form is available for vets to use.
“NSA is urging sheep farmers across the country to speak directly with their vets and keep an open conversation to ensure they are compliant for animals destined for export.
"In the period between now and December farmers are advised to ask their vet to provide this attestation when they are out on farm conducting any routine visit.
"It is strongly advised not to leave this until December," he added, "It has not yet been agreed how the attestation will follow stock through markets or collection centres.
"But it’s most important that farms have the attestation in advance of December or when they first start selling after that date.”