Store and breeding markets are to be reopened for sheep and goats on 15 May, for the first time since Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) was discovered in February 2001.

Until now, only slaughter markets have been open for sheep and goats, with stock going straight from auction marts to abattoirs or returning home unsold. Legislation coming into force on 15 May will enable farmers to send sheep and goats to markets to sell on to other farmers under a licence from the local authority. Most live sheep markets are expected to reopen in the week beginning 20 May.

Figures collated by DEFRA show that 128 of 171 livestock markets in England and Wales have reopened with a further 30 expecting to reopen. Up to 80% of the reopened markets have indicated they will be looking to reopen store sheep markets.

Farmers cannot take stock to store and breeding markets if their farm is under a 20-day standstill. Batches of sheep will have to be individually licensed to the market by local authorities. Sheep will be able to leave the market on a general rather than individual licence for the first time. All animals can move to a dedicated slaughter market without having to observe any 20-day standstill.

Sheep and goats will also be able to be shown at agricultural shows from next week under changes to the interim animal movement regime. Shows which take place on surfaces such as grass will no longer be required to remain free of FMD susceptible livestock for 28 days after the show.

All animals at shows will have to be individually identified and will either have to respect any standstill on the premises of departure or be isolated for 20 days before leaving for the show. The same conditions will apply on return to the holding.

Any sheep and goats sold at shows will have to return to their premises of origin for 20 days before they are allowed to depart to the purchaser’s premises.

Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty welcomed the latest changes to the interim animal movement regime, saying they represented a further step on the road to a more normal trading regime for livestock farmers.

“The resumption of store and breeding markets for sheep farmers is great news for the sheep sector,” he added.