Sheep farmers are set for another year of substantial discounts for hoggs if erupted incisor teeth appear before slaughter.

Despite over a decade of lobbying by the farming sector, a recent letter from minister for food, farming, and fisheries, Mark Spence MP, has confirmed no change is planned due to the need to focus on other ‘high-priority issues’ connected with Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies.

Further efforts to obtain official Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) negligible risk status are also pushing any changes further down to-do list.

The letter was sent to Aberdeenshire MP Richard Thomson, who has been challenging the UK Government to make progress on the issue.

NFU Scotland's Penny Middleton, commented: “The ideal situation for Scottish farmers and crofters would be to have an end to costly and inaccurate dentition checks and carcass splitting, as well as achieving negligible risk status for BSE-free.

"It’s hugely frustrating that we’re still discussing splitting sheep carcasses at 12 months despite the lack of evidence for BSE in sheep. Cattle age limits for Specified Risk Material (SRM) removal have been gradually rolled back over the years as risks decrease, while sheep have remained at 12 months.

“We continue to discuss with other UK Unions how we might achieve the goal to move away from the current method of aging sheep by dentition, to avoid any disruption to the red meat industry, as it would require a GB-wide consensus.”

Chief executive of SAMW, Scott Walker, said: “It is frustrating that no progress has yet been made on this issue, and it is yet another example where there has been a lot of talk over the years but little in the way of advancement of a solution.

"Ensuring that change does not disrupt our trade with the EU is critical, but we remain keen for this issue to be finally resolved.”

The lack of progress means that hoggs will continue to be aged through teeth assessment meaning significant discounts if animals are classified as adult sheep.

The current method of ‘mouthing’ has been criticised for many years for being inconsistent and unfair.

Split carcasses often receive heavy discounts and are paid the same price per kg as cull ewes, rather than hoggets.

If the teeth have erupted, the animal is considered 12 months old, and the carcass must be split, with the spinal cord removed. These measures were introduced in 2001 for food safety following the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) crisis.