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Around 10,000 livestock farmers who are members of Quality Meat Scotland’s  cattle and sheep quality assurance scheme will shortly receive this year’s updated standards document, published today.

Over 90% of Scotland’s breeding cattle population, around 80% of breeding sheep and almost 100% of significant pig farming businesses are members of QMS farm assurance schemes.

The standards behind the six QMS quality assurance schemes – which also cover pigs, feeds, haulage, auction markets and processors - are reviewed regularly and updated annually to ensure continuous improvements are made to keep pace with technical and other changes.  

“Before any changes are incorporated into these standards they are thoroughly discussed by the committees which oversee the annual review process. Membership of the cattle and sheep standards committee includes representatives from relevant areas of the industry including farming, processing and auction markets,” said Suzanne Woodman, QMS Brands Integrity Manager. 

This broad range of knowledge and expertise helps to ensure any changes necessary to meet consumer and retailer expectations, and to keep pace with technology and other changes in our industry, are also practical and workable at grassroots level.

“A key objective of this year’s review of the Cattle and Sheep Scheme Standards was to deliver a more user-friendly, practical document for scheme members,  bring a fresh focus to the format and content, with the aim of constructive change for the benefit of scheme members, our brands and the industry,” said Miss Woodman.

As a result, the new standards – which will be effective from 1 January 2015 – should be simpler and more straight forward.

“Although our quality assurance standards are predominantly used by scheme members and farm assessors, they are also publicly available to a wider audience including consumers and retailers. Confidence in these standards is essential to underpin the integrity of our premium Scotch brands,” observed Miss Woodman.

Most of the standards in the new document were already built into the assessment process of the previous standards. The key changes relate to Health Planning and Bulk Organic Fertilisers (formerly referred to as Recycled Waste Products).

The section of the standards which focuses on improved herd/flock health planning, incorporates a number of new, good practice recommendations. These include a recommendation that farms receive an annual veterinary visit and that the annual review of the Animal Health Plan health and performance records is carried out in conjunction with a vet.

“Historical concerns over the safety of applying compost and digestate to land have now been addressed to an extent which has allowed us to achieve significant progress and substantial revision of the previous restriction on their use by members of the assurance scheme,” said Miss Woodman.

Concerns had previously been raised that anaerobic digestion (AD) could actively cultivate the Clostridium botulinum organism, however published information relating to this was very limited. Three research projects have now been completed, the most recent in July 2014, confirming no significant growth of the organism in anaerobic digestion and risks similarly low to those associated with livestock slurries.

As a result, the Bulk Organic Fertilisers section now allows composts and digestates to be applied to land, provided they are PAS 100 and PAS 110 certified, meet additional physical contaminants restrictions and are applied in accordance with the guidance table provided.

The standards also clearly state that “no graze” and “no harvest” intervals are to be observed to ensure the benefit of these materials is realised and when produced from animal by-products – for example food waste from households and supermarkets - these windows become statutory.

The standards also contain useful information to assist farmers in discussions with compost and digestate suppliers and ensure that the appropriate declarations and paperwork are requested.

Members will receive a copy of the updated standards by post in the coming days. The standards are also available to view online by clicking here