A UK cattle breeding business has suspended more than £150,000 of orders and may be forced to abandon any future activity in Europe because of post-Brexit changes at sea ports.
Geoff Roper’s Dorset-based Wessex Lowlines had spent a decade building up a business selling pedigree Lowline breeding stock to customers on the continent.
But since Brexit came into force, the failure to set up a Border Control Post to provide veterinary services and processing of livestock entering Europe means all Wessex Lowlines’ orders for breeding herds in France, Switzerland, Czech Republic and the rest of Europe have been suspended.
Mr Roper said that the lack of a BCP within Europe had cost the business more than £150,000 in the past six months alone, and that there was no resolution in sight, with neither the UK or French governments showing any great inclination to change their positions.
“It has taken us more than a decade to breed a large herd of Lowline cattle to serve customers in the UK, Ireland and across Europe,” said Mr Roper. “We had a strategy and it was working but it has been pulled apart by this failure to provide services across the Channel. What’s even more frustrating is that the UK has fulfilled the necessary requirements and livestock is able to enter from Europe.
“Customers have been really patient but they have been waiting for over a year for us to be able to transport the animals from our farm to theirs and we simply can’t do it without the checks being in place over the border.
“Obviously it’s painful financially but it’s heartbreaking for the small team who have put their lives into this project to see it blocked by something that could so simply be fixed.”
Mr Roper has asked his MP, the NFU, DEFRA and others for help in resolving the matter but says he doesn’t feel like there is any urgency from the UK or French governments.
“We’ve been told it could be 18 months or more before we get any movement on this issue which, when you’re farming livestock, is no good. Our customers want young animals, often with their calves too, and it takes years of planning to make that happen.
“We have bred herds specifically for the customers we have and now we can’t fulfil the orders to them. It’s devastating.”
Mr Roper’s herd of Lowlines is believed to be the largest in Europe. The breed was first established in Australia from where they have spread around the world. Due to their smaller size – about 30% smaller than the average beef animal farmed in the UK – landowners can graze more animals in every field.
The breed’s higher meat-to-bone ratio compared to larger breeds means they are popular with farmers and smallholders who want to produce high-quality, grass-fed meat in a sustainable, efficient manner, especially at a time when costs of production are spiralling and more sustainable beef systems are being explored.
Wessex Lowlines was the first to be able to supply breeding animals into Europe and had established herds in Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain prior to the export system being suspended post-Brexit.