Non EID Tags could prove more expensive to farming industry.

3rd June 2011

View From The Rostrum

By Keith Davies Director at Welshpool Livestock sales

Non EID Tags could prove more expensive to farming industry.

At Welshpool market we have been operating from our new 16 acre site for 18 months during which time we have been required to adapt to the requirement of the electronic tagging of sheep. Although we knew it was imminent no reading equipment was installed in to the new market due to uncertainty as to which type of tags would eventually be used and also the knowledge that the reading equipment was being upgraded on a regular basis. Having trialled the Race Readers we eventually decided that the most suitable system for Welshpool Market was the Stick Readers which would electronically transfer the information to the office computer for the production of licences.

In practice, however, the reading of all the ear tags has proved to be extremely difficult, time consuming and expensive. From an auctioneers point of view the variety of tagging options available to farmers has made the situation far more difficult and at times virtually impossible to fulfil our role as a Central Point Recording Centre (CPRC)

As a CPRC farmers are able to bring their sheep to our market without reading and listing every tag on their movement licence. When we have read the tags we can give this information back to the farmer for their movement records.

Up until February this year this was achievable, but since that time despite having 4 - 6 people, sometimes more, dedicated to reading tags a 100% read has sometimes proved to be impossible. Although there have been problems with the electronic tags many of which have lost their electronic device, the major problem has been as a result of the slaughter tag derogation which has allowed farmers to sell lambs with a single non-electronic slaughter tag (believing that because they are going for slaughter there is no point in 'wasting' money on a more expensive tag).

In practice however, from July onwards many lambs intended for slaughter by the vendor are purchased by fatstock dealers for farmers who keep them until the following spring.

It is these lambs which reappear in the market with non-electronic tags which are creating a major problem for us as auctioneers because they have to be read manually and will be mixed with lambs from the other holdings some with EID and some without.

Some weeks during spring we have had to manually read up to 50% of the 6000 or so hoggetts presented. While we endeavour to read as many as we can and to provide the information back to the feeder/farmer the onus is on the farmer to have 100% accurate record of all the movements to avoid putting at risk their Single Farm Payment. I believe that this situation can not be ignored by anyone as sooner or later someone will be made an example of to force others to comply.

While most farmers may consider that this is not a problem which affects them, it probably does much more that they think, even those who sell lambs direct to slaughter and never come near a livestock market. Lambs feeders help to put a bottom to the market at a time of year when the supply of fat lambs exceeds the demand and without them in the market place there would be a considerable drop in the prices realised at the time when lamb sales are at their highest - i.e. affecting all farmers who sell live weight and dead weight at that time.

These feeders also provide a valuable source of lamb during the spring months where supply would normally be much tighter and thereby keep the home abattoirs running and help to keep imports down to a minimum.

It is my firm belief that our lamb feeders provide an essential service to all sheep farmers and we must do all that we can to help them comply with the EID regulations.

To do this is it essential that all store lambs and fat lambs sold through the live market system should have at the least a single electronic slaughter tagĀ an extra cost which will be rewarded by keeping our lamb feeders in the market place. Next year with the requirement to read and record all ewe tags the situation will become even worse.