TALKS to secure passage of livestock across the Irish Sea have reached ‘frustrating’ levels, with still no concrete resolution in sight.

Northern Ireland sheep farmers who want to buy replacement breeding stock at the current big Longtown and Caithness sheep sales, in Scotland, are angry there is no clarity on whether sheep can travel across to Northern Ireland or not.

Due to strict rules following the implementation of the NI Protocol, livestock from Scotland are prohibited from entering Northern Ireland.

These 'daft rules' are hurting farm businesses in both regions of the UK and farmers have called for immediate action to solve the problem, according to Randalstown sheep farmer, James Alexander, who is chomping at the bit to buy 1000 sheep in Scotland from the seasonal sales to use as replacements in his own flock and to provide stock for his own sheep sales.

He is angry that the issue has dragged on for so long and is calling for immediate action from Daera, Defra, the EU or ‘whoever it takes’ to allow sheep onto boats.


Well-known livestock breeder James Alexander is frustrated that normal trading lines between NI and Scotland have been stymied by the NI protocols

Well-known livestock breeder James Alexander is frustrated that normal trading lines between NI and Scotland have been stymied by the NI protocols


“I’m at my wits’ end,” said James. “All the authorities are aware of the problem but yet here we are months in and still no solution. I’m a regular buyer at the big ewe lamb sales in Scotland and right now I need to buy 1000 Cheviot Mule ewe lambs and later on, gimmers for my own flock.

“I have farmers and auctioneers calling me daily asking if I am buying but I can’t give them an answer. I’m really in limbo as to what to do. If I miss these sales, then that’s my chance gone for next season’s prospects.

“The governments need to get their acts together and resolve this, no matter what it takes and restore the traditional sales traffic we have been used to for decades,” said James.

Recent rumours suggest that plans are afoot to introduce Bluetongue tests at £20 per head for sheep coming from Scotland to Northern Ireland in order to allow sheep to travel. Sources have also suggested the UK and EU governments do not want any form of live cattle or sheep movements permitted on ferries which, if true, would be a disaster for the industry.

Daera chief veterinary officer, Robert Huey, advised Northern Ireland farmers to wait 10 days for the outcome of talks before buying any sheep in Scotland. He said: “Discussions are ongoing to try and streamline the system before the big cattle and sheep sales start. There are more talks between us and the EU scheduled this week.

“Realistically, we need to engage in technical and practical talks rather than political ones to bring forward solutions to this ongoing issue. Scrapie is a major hurdle in all of this.

“My advice to local farmers wanting to buy sheep at sales in Scotland is to wait 10 days before doing so to see if there is any more clarity into what we are trying to achieve to solve this issue.”

But UFU president, Victor Chestnutt, urged the authorities to sort the problem out. He said: “We are totally frustrated and blue in the face raising this travel issue with the powers that be. They keep on telling us a solution is getting closer but still it drags on. The time has come for a sensible solution to be offered once and for all and stop this issue from dragging on any further.”

Pedigree Texel breeder, James Adams, from Cullybackey, added: “I have sheep entered for Lanark next week but I’m scared to take them over as 'no sale' means sheep have to stay out there. If I thought things were going to change before then I would be going. We can’t even buy at the sale and bring them home straight away.”