Written Evidence submitted by The National Sheep Association (LS0030)
NSA submission on Labour shortages
The National Sheep Association is an organisation that represents the views and interests of sheep producers throughout the UK. It is funded by its membership of sheep farmers and its activities involve it in every aspect of the sheep industry. NSA’s vision is one of the people involved in keeping sheep being enthusiastic, knowledgeable and aspiring to best practice.
To date the current impact of labour shortages to the sheep industry have been minimal. We are aware of some delays (up to 2 weeks) before being able to book lambs in at some abattoirs, some pedigree sheep breeders have experienced difficulties in finding lorry drivers able to transport live animals for breeding in the UK and on the continent and finally how some vets have been unavailable due to extra time on increased paperwork for agri-food movements.
It should also be noted that due to the Covid restrictions there have been fewer sheep shearers travelling from Australia and New Zealand to the UK – which has bought extra pressure on local UK shearers. This does have potential welfare issues of delays in sheep being shorn during months with higher temperatures – avoided this year due to some flocks starting earlier, and the warmer weather being delayed by a month or so. Therefore in terms of outlook for the future, this is something that should be on the radar should there be any reasons that prevent non-UK labour from being able to travel to the UK.
The situation has highlighted how with fewer smaller local abattoirs, flexibility at this end of the supply chain has been compromised. It has been documented in the press now and in the past how the larger processors have been unable to source suitable skilled labour which has contributed to this disruption. There is opinion that smaller abattoirs may have more chance of local recruitment, which, along with the potential of shorter journey times, would ensure improved flexibility to deal with any future disruption in resources, be that labour, fuel or otherwise.