Farmers count the cost of sheep tagging

New electronic tagging rules could cost farmers more than £1.8 million, says Julie Harding.

The compulsory electronic tagging of all lambs could cost Britain’s farmers in excess of £1.8 million, says the NFU. In a ruling introduced on January 1, every lamb less than 12 months old will have to sport an electronic tag (EID), even if it’s destined for the slaughterhouse. Previously, two-thirds of lambs were tagged with non-electronic plastic tags. Adult sheep and goats were already subject to compulsory electronic tagging, but in 2010, lamb producers were given a derogation by Defra to continue using non-electronic batch tags in certain circumstances.

‘We argued that there was no real benefit to the industry in terms of traceability when a lamb is bound for slaughter. However, for other parts of the industry, such as livestock markets, the move to EID would make reading tags easier,’ says the NFU’s Tom Fullick. He estimates that the new law will add about
£1,000 to a farmer’s bottom line on the sale of 2,000 lambs. ‘This will reduce farmers’ ability to weather fluctuating lamb prices and input costs.’

The good news is that EID will give improved data at markets and, in 18 months’ time, there will be a complete dataset. ‘We can use this to approach the European Commission and ask for tolerance in the legislation, which currently requires records to be 100% correct,’ adds Mr Fullick.

Defra has also announced that cattle farmers within the badger-cull areas will receive bespoke advice from the Animal and Plant Health Agency about the current local level of risk of the disease.


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