By Debbie James

Changes are to be made to the livestock quarantine unit (QU) scheme in Wales following pressure from the farming industry.

QUs replaced isolation facilities as the optional exemption to the six-day standstill rule (6DSS) but they had come under fire for their impact on agricultural shows and livestock auctions.

The Welsh Government had ordered a review and that assessment has now identified nine areas for improvement.

Two changes that may be implemented before the end of the year are the introduction of new guidance for improving communications for farmers, exhibitors and show organisers, and the re-examination of QU guidance in relation to TB.

Seven further recommendations to be considered in the new year include amending the 24-hour reporting rule to allow farmers to report the activation of a QU within 24 hours while individual animal movements are completed within three days.

A grant scheme for QU certification could be introduced to help farmers meet the initial cost of certification.

Other recommendations are:

* Explore group farm certification and renewal inspections by the certification body

* Assess whether the certification body can combine QU visits with other visits to further reduce costs

* Allow greater discretion for QU inspectors when considering compliance, such as the use of natural barriers around QUs

* Ask the certification body to streamline the renewal inspection process for QUs

* Continue to collect animal movement data between Welsh holdings and agricultural shows.

Rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths has accepted the recommendations and said she hoped that they would help to address concerns.

“We will continue to review the scheme over the coming years,’’ she said.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales welcomed the recommendations.

Its senior policy officer Dr Hazel Wright described the current system as costly and impractical.

“Over the last few years, the FUW has repeatedly highlighted that some of the operational requirements of QUs, such as the need for 24-hour reporting, would preclude many individuals from establishing such units,’’ she said.

“We are therefore pleased to see that many of the issues we highlighted are now listed for future review and we especially welcome moves which would see a grant scheme for QUs in order to help farmers meet the initial cost of certification.’’