Blowflies or Home Secretary John Reid - which will cost the sheep farmers of the UK more this summer ?
Simple question - and like all simple questions requires a lengthy answer.... bear with us ....
Blowflies are members of the Calliphoridae and constitute some 1100 species worldwide in 23 genera in the sub - families Calliphorinae, and the Chrysomyina. Known in the neotropics usually as Bluebottles, Greenbottles or Blowflies they include some notorious and costly animal pests. In Australia the sheep blowfly Lucilia cuprina has been calculated to cost the sheep industry over A$170 million a year in stock losses.
The female , who will lay 2,000 eggs in a lifetime, lays clutches of eggs in sheeps wool which hatch in less than a day, 3 larval stages or instars follow rapidly, which burrow into the host sheep using fast acting proteolytic enzymes , as well as the mechanical grinding of tissue with mouth hooks ..theresultant mess is a called a myasis . This may take 8- 15 days and the resultant pupa drops to the ground ,burrows, then hatches and emerges as an adult in another 12-14 days. Useful and intersting graphs of time / temperature of the whole life cycle are available here from the University of Austria. Using this information it is possible to tell with human cadavers the time of death with remarkable accuracy - this is the remarkable and revealing science of Forensic entomology.
In Northern Europe the sheep blowfly, Lucilia sericata creates serious welfare and economic problems and if left untreated causes distress to the sheep and will lead to its death with in a few days as the necrotic myasis sets in and consumes the ailing sheep. Blowfly strike affects over a million sheep and 80% of sheep farms each year in the UK. An average of 1.5% of sheep in England and Wales are infested per annum and around 2% of infestations lead to death.(Note Lucilia sericata has now found it's way to Australia)
Traditionally control was undertaken by the use of insecticides in sheep dips such as DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) Dieldrin and BHT. Since 1990 there has been a great deal of concern over the effects of organophosphate compounds on both agricultural workers and the environment (Stevens et al., 1995; Littlejohn & Melvin, 1991) See ...this and many other more recent studies.
Stevens, R., Spurgeon, A. Calvert, I. A., Beach, J. Levy, L. S., Berry, H.
& Harrington, J. M. (1995) Neuropsycological effects of long-trem exposure
to organophosphates in sheep dip. Lancet, 345: 1135-1139.
Littlejohn, J. W. & Melvin, M. A. L. (1991) Sheep-dips as a source of
pollution of fresh-waters, a study in Grampion Region. Journal of
the Institution of Water and Environment Management, 5: 21-27.
Besides attempts at using baited traps to catch mature adults, control is a secondary and happy coincidence of sheep shearing , which produces wool - and requires a mobile, skilled hard working labour force. In the UK this is traditionally supplied by itinerant antipodean workers (especially Kiwis - principally because oz shearers are too idle) , operating in their native winter season.
Traditionally these guys (and a few women) operate as self employed shearers, working through agricultural labour agencies ..... however their livelihood in the UK has been been dramatically threatened this year:
1. Current world price of wool is the lowest ever (ex farm U raw wool sels for 40 -70 p per kilo)
2. The UK Government are demanding labour agencies demand both registration at £143 per worker plus a PAYE reference number and a National Insurance number - which as people working often based on dual nationality or holiday visias they will not have - or indeed want - or require as the 10 week season is so short it is unlikely they will breach the Income tax annual pay threshhold. 500 Kiwi shearers needed by the UK sheep industry each summer are already making plans to work elsewhere says the British Wool Marketing Board
If left unshorn the UK flock is threatened because the 4/5 Kg of wool on a sheep at the end of summer feeding can, especially if soaked with rain, land the sheep on it's back and result in a rapid death because the sheep cannot unaided right itself and feed.
Sheep dipping , against blow worm and of course the many unpleasant parasitic flukes and worms that sheep are prey to, does however have consequences for the wool industry because it can (despite the use of barrier creams) affect shearers, fleece graders, and other wool handlers. It can also lead to the need for extra scouring to remove residues which has knock on environmental problems of effluents and all the regulation and cost which that entails.
Consequently the advice fom TheBritish Wool Marketing Board to sheep farmers is to not dip up to 3 months before shearing - although the animal's health is paramount in any decision to dip or not.
UK Work Permits
Employers interested in hiring someone who is subject to immigration control are required to obtain a Work Permit for them. A Work Permit is a document issued by Work Permits (UK), which is part of the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate. This document gives an employer to the right to employ a named person in a specific job.
A Work Permit itself does not automatically allow the overseas worker to take up the job. Once issued, the worker must usually then either apply for a visa (if they are overseas when the job is accepted ) or, if in the UK, apply to have their immigration status changed - known as "switching". In many cases, "switching" is not permitted so it is vital that you know the rules on this before embarking on the application process.
In general terms, work permits are only available for jobs requiring high levels of experience and skills. For example, somebody working as a qualified engineer or accountant would qualify for a work permit whereas somebody doing bar work or low level clerical work would not. Skilled tradesmen would not normally qualify for a work permit either. There are however recognised trade qualifications in Australia and New Zealand - as well as Vocational certificates in the UK.
Crucially, an employer applying for a work permit is required to satisfy the "resident labour" test. This generally means that they must have advertised the vacancy and show that no other qualified candidate applied for the job. Home Office guidance for "new hire" type applications requires an employer to provide evidence of advertising and of the candidate's skills and experience
A work permit cannot be automatically transferred. If an employer wants to recruit somebody who already has a work permit - ie. as a shearer moves from farm to farm a new application will be required to be made for them.
Finally, note that it is a legal requirement for employers to ensure that their staff have permission to work. Failure to undertake this responsibility could end in prosecution - Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 : a fine of up to £5000 fine for each employee in breach and the possibility of prosecution of individuals / Directors etc.
The specified list of documents, described in detail in the Immigration Rules which an employee requires to see to satisfy themselves must be originals, and cover 14 different documents - so making the employer an unwilling Immigration advisor.
The Home Office has set up a network of enforcement teams who will investigate employers based on their own intelligence or tip offs from members of the public. Any adverse findings will lead not only to the possibility of prosecution under the 1996 Act but also may lead to closer scrutiny, for example, of any future application for work permits, interest by the HMRC etc.,
The National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) has asked the Home Office for clarification from Work Permits UK over the New Zealand shearers issue. The NAAC were told:
"In summary, work permits are not issued for self-employment and there are no plans to change that policy. That being so, if your members wish to continue to bring shearers to the UK who are not EEA nationals, they are going to have to do so on an employer-employee basis and comply with all related UK employment legislation, including the requirement to register with HMRC to pay tax and National Insurance Contributions."
There is however some good news because under the legislation that produced The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) sheep shearers are not going to need a gangmaster’s licence which would have cost them at least £2,000 a year.
The GLA has accepted the strong case that shearers should not be included in the Gangmasters Licensing (Exclusions) Regulations 2006, put to it by the NAAC, working closely with the National Farmers Union, the National Sheep Association and the British Wool Marketing Board. This will mean that a contractor supplying shearers and providing the machinery will not need a licence.
The NAAC’s Chief Executive, Jill Hewitt, is quoted “The sheep shearing sector is already a legitimate, well-legislated area of employment that cannot sustain such disproportionate extra cost for what is a very short, seasonal operation. It is the norm for overseas shearers to come to the UK on either a Work Permit – closely scrutinised by Work Permits UK at a cost to the contractor of £153 a shearer – or on a holiday visa.
In the absence of UK based sheep shearers, and the introduction of laws introduced for quite different purposes this will result in either the seasonal influx (they have been coming for 40 years) of antipodean sheep shearers going underground / ilegal or moving elsewhere in Europe.
Resulting in even less sheep's wool, less income for sheep farmers and the increasing susceptibility of the UK sheep flock to blow fly infestation, stock loss and further costs.
British Wool Marketing Board Chairman Frank Langrish ( a sheep farmer) is quoted saying yesterday , he was extremely concerned about the welfare risks to UK flocks if the New Zealand shearers stay away.
"Although our UK-based shearing skills are improving all the time we still need the big gangs of Kiwi shearers to cope with large hill flocks that can number up to several thousand sheep. The best Kiwi shearers can clip over 400 sheep a day and are critical to the efficient management of UK flocks. "The British Wool Board Shearing Manager Colin MacGregor, with 20 years professional shearing experience, operates a national training schem which has 1,500 students a year, 60% of them farmer / owners, another 30% who want to extend their skills and perhaps income base by some shearing income and he remainder having a taste of the task. This skill base is not in shape to replace the temporary, hard working, antipodeans who will be needed, starting in 6 weeks time in the South of England... unless you of course want to wrestle with 300 sheep weighing about 60 Kgeach a day and give them each a haircut for 55-65 p per sheep? - Fashion Note - you can look like one, by buying "Wool a Way" genuine NZ shearers clothing in the UK here ..or buy a clipper - £250 a time ?
Looks as though the beleaguered Home Secretary had better move fast ... well at least faster than the blowflies ... strange to say Lord Patel had his lunch in the sunshine interrupted by the first two bumble bees of summer.
Anyway that is how the world looked late this morning, so Lord Patel had a word with the Policy Department of UK Visas (and a colleague who only shaves infrequently and carries a sledge hammer in his inside vest pocket had a "word" with Gorbals Jimmy) and... Hey Presto ! This afternoon at 2.30 pm they e-mailed Rob Morris at the NAAC to tell them that, at least for this year shearing contractors will not have to quote a PAYE reference, so clearing the way for (what everyone hopes will be) a normal hiring season.
So that's bad news for the blowflies, 3 cheers for John Reid, (never thought the day would dawn when that was said in these purlieus) and good news for antipodean sheep shearers, and the British wool industry... British wool has a natural and unique springiness - an essential ingredient in anywool carpet mixture.
Now we just sit back and wait for the massed ranks of the Romanian and Bulgarian sheep shearers to arrive, and drive a coach and horses through this welcome, necessary de-rogation of the regulations in our over regulated country.