Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy New year to all our readers, hope you had a fantastic Christmas too.....we did! We are off to Berrien and will see you in the new year.....leaving the house, dogs, pigs, hens and sheepies in the hands of my eldest son.....yikes!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ouessants part 4!!
The good news is that the tests for blue tongue have all come back negative! (which is what I would have expected!) The other tests for thediseases not present in France of GB are yet to come back.....if they were positive I think it would be rather strange!
DEFRA however now tell me they need to "do a risk assesment" to decide whether the sheep pose a risk to local farming and wildlife.....hmmm!(basically they need to know they are still healthy)
They also informed me they have not ruled out sending them back to France due to the errors in the paper work...........This is a little baffling as if one considers it carefully the word 'jobsworth' springs to mind! Conversation something along these lines....
OK so the sheep arrived with the wrong paperwork which was not for the want of trying to get it right! I am apparently personally to blame for that as it is the "importers responsibility to ensure the correct paperwork".......I retreat for a cup of tea and to summarise it I am responsible for DEFRA not being able to advise me what forms I needed, having all blood tested negative for blue tongue they could require me to export the sheep to Brittany, from where we start again, expose them to the possibility of blue tongue, get the paperwork right and re import them as French sheep, and re test them for all the things they were tested for last week.
I think I am beginning lose faith in common sense!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Very cold here! The hens huddle around the polytunnel and look chilly, the sheep sport a fine crusting of frost and the pigs are not keen on leaving their beds except in the prescence of food! (I know just how they feel!)

I just had to share this picture found by a friend......! A good giggle does one good!
I am awaiting the results of a funding application for money to buy a felting machine and huge carding machine to be installed in an eco business unit a few miles away in order to start processing woolly waste! This will be processing local waste wool into felt for a variety of uses....more info soon

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ouessants in Somerset episode 3!

These ouessant sheep are very long suffering! They have to be as this morning bright and early not one but two DEFRA vets turned up to blood test them all. I had already taken 4 suffolk cross ewes to market in Taunton so a quick cup of tea and we were off. It took all of us plus the long suffering Pete (who had helped me catch the suffolks the night before when it was almost dark after I had trouble trying to persuade the sheep to leave their nice field and get in the trailer with a villagers dog sharling and barking the otherside of the lane from the gate!) to pen up the Ouessants who obviously have the same thoughts as me on officialdom!
Two had already lost both eartags they came from France with and so we retagged them with their new UK inmport tags which have the usual UK plus 6 numbers unique to me on one side and the sheeps unique number plus .F eg UK234567/202.F. Some of the sheep now have 3 tags in one very tiny ear!......we are apparently not allowed to remove the French tags even though they have a new identity.....hmm we will see!
Blood testing then commenced.............
Sheep were held at the correct angle and needle and phial inserted......nothing! Vet tries again with same result.....and this is how it continued untilall sheep looked like pin cusions and the vets had.....wait for it.......3 large phials of blood from each animal. It took 3 hours and the sheep and me were right cheesed off by the end, I think it is diabolical that as well as a phial to test for blue tongue they also took 2 further samples to test for brucellosis and contagious agalactia...... France and GB are apparently free of both these diseases so what the bl##dy h#ll are they taking such a lot of blood for!! mind boggles!
Well now we wait for the results....back next week..........and then wait until the 4th January when, if they haven't decided to throw the book at me some of the sheep can go to their new homes as only 4 are staying to join my flock of Ouessants

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ouessant sheep arrive part 2!
Well having read part one you would think part 2 is about how it was all plain sailing from the arrival of the sheep......wrong!
Having tumbled into bed at 11.30 still going up and down from the rough ferry crossing I had to be ready for the ministry vet at 8.45am!
Sheep were a little suspicious as they were penned ready for inspection and the first question from the vet...How many sheep have you here? answer: ( through bleary eyes) 16.....? Wrong you have 17 but only 16 on the form.....!!!!! Illegal immigrant now had taken on a whole new meaning as it was white, woolly and resplendent in 2 ear tags confirming it (number 700003 was indeed not on the form). My heart sunk...I should have counted...but they were all penned and ready to go and Rita assured us there were 16! What to do now! After vet had gleefully found a few more anomilies between eartags and paperwork he announced we also had the 'wrong sort of health certificate'...heart sunk even further!
We and Rita in France had telephoned, visited and asked in great detail about this and at no time did ANYONE show us or tell us what SORT of health form it was nor what it should LOOK like and Britain and France both being members of the EC surely they must be working along the same lines with the same paperwork?? Well not for the want of trying did we arrive with the 'wrong sort' of form!
The vet served me with several notices forbidding me to move the sheep on penalty of 6 monthe in prison, a £5000 fine or both and said he would be back later to issue me with more forms for illegally importing sheep which had in addition it would seem hell and damnation on top of fines and prison!....he also wanted to see me treat the sheep with insecticide in case they had any midges residing on them or had raging blue tongue and could infect the local animal population and wanted to watch should I fail to comply!!( I tried to point out that midges flew and did not live on sheep, and that blue tongue CANNOT pass from sheep to sheep but needs a midge which has bitten an infected animal...but of course he is a vet and what do I know!) He left smugly warning me that in the worst case senario they would all be culled (DEFRA wording for killed and incinerated)................He also informed me that whilst I could, due to a loophole, continue to move stock off my holding without the customary 6 day standstill for oncoming stock. I was now barred from anything else entering the holding in case I bought 500 pedigree sheep, DEFRA decided to cull, and if they decided that not only the Ouessants but ALL other animals on the holding would be valued and killed and I had bought them on just to claim compensation!!.... My God could it get worse!
I felt totally deflated and slightly sick and retreated for the good british crisis management tool - a cup of tea, where on reflection I started to feel rather angry.

It would seem I was being treated as if I had not bothered about the implications of importing the sheep and as if the paperwork anomalies were my personal fault. Actually I had spent hours and hours on the phone to various departments of DEFRA all of whom gave conflicting advice or contradicted what the last lot said! Had, at their insistance tried to ring the French Agricultural Ministry where no one could help as my French, whilst reasonable is not quite up to explaining about importing sheep and health related issues. Discovered that France operates on a regional level and that Rita should visit their offices in St Brieuc, which she did. Spoke at length to my local animal health office who set up apick up /drop off point and isolation facility on the holding.
...........So in retrospect I think we did just about all we could have done bar go to Brussels and collect personally the form needed for export! (which apparently is in French on the DEFRA website although I have not found it yet despite 2 hours of looking!)

Tomorrow another ministry vet arrives and we have to catch the sheep to be blood tested for lots of diseases not present in either Britain or France and we have to give them another eartag making 3 in total (double tagging in France) These tags are F tags (F for Import???) and Symtag our tag suppliers were quite excited as they had never been asked for any before!

So at this time we are yet to await our fate, but cannot think they will cull the whole holding as what would be the point? part 3 comming this space

Friday, December 07, 2007

Our Ouessant sheep or rather moutons d'Ouessant to give them their proper title have arrived in England from Brittany in France after 9 months of planning and finding them!
Ouessants are the smallest breed of sheep in the world and also one of the rarest breeds. They originated many years ago from the Isle d' Ouessant also known as Ushant which is at the western extremity of Brittany with nothing but the Atlantic ocean between it and the USA!
We have had a particularly difficult year in which to try importing sheep what with the foot and mouth disease restrictions which were only lifted a couple of weeks ago and more importantly the Blue Tongue disease which has all of France except the far west of Brittany, the western coastline and part of the south under restrictions as there have been over 12 thousand cases in France, most since September....a taste of things to come in GB methinks. Well you may think i have been irresponsible bringing these sheep into the country but I can assure you they came from a BT free area and were transported through Roscoff which is also BT free to Somerset which is also BT free. They are now in isolation and will be blood tested next week for numerous diseases and only when they show negative to everything will they be given the all clear.
Now we went to great lengths on both sides of the channel to get the paperwork for this right and if you are not familiar with DEFRA I suggest a visit to their website with a plate of sandwiches and a flask and great endurance and you will start to have some idea what beaurocracy looks like! The wonderful Brian and Rita Edwards (pictured with their little patterdale terrier) who had collected the sheep together for us and kept them through the movement bans had visited the regional animal health office at St Brieuc to enquire as to the paperwork required, let their vet know and he duly came out to their smallholding and checked not only the animals for export but all the animals on the holding 24 hours before travel and issued what the regional office had advised him, namely a certificate of good health etc with each animal documented. We (Veronica from Yew Tree Horse Transport and me) arrived in Brittany on Tuesday morning after a rough ferry crossing at 7.30am and set off for Paimpol in her very smart lorry. We collected the sheep, filled in the movement documents and chugged off after a welcome cup of tea making for the next ferry, we even had cctv in the cab so we could keep an eye on the sheep!
Arrival at Roscoff was on time ready for the 3pm ferry and after the customs had inspected the sheep and the paperwork was photocopied and approved we were onboard the Brittany Ferries Pont d'Abbe . It was another rough crossing necessitating a visit to the on board cinema to watch The Bourne Ultimatum to pass the time!
We arrived in the Blackdown Hills at approx 11pm and unloaded the sheep in the pouring rain and pitch dark Veronica then driving back to her base in Shropshire and me falling into bed to get some sleep and await the arrival of the DEFRA vet at 9am the following morning.......part 2 to follow! (pics show the lorry on the ferry and the sheep on board)