Impact of sheep tagging in the spotlight

Less than two months into his job, UK farming minister Jim Paice yesterday provided a crumb of comfort for sheep farmers in announcing that he had persuaded John Dalli, the European Commissioner for health and consumer policy, to come to the UK to view the impact of the regulations governing the electronic identification of sheep.

This move has caused great upset the industry and it has been claimed that it is costing millions of pounds to implement. One particular concern for many Scottish farmers has been the necessity of tagging sheep that never leave the farm on which they are born.

NFU Scotland vice-president Nigel Miller said he was heartened that Dalli has accepted the invite to the UK.

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Miller said: "Given the impact that the regulation has had on those who manage Scotland's 2.7 million ewes and their offspring, I would hope that a trip north of the Border will be scheduled into the Commissioner's visit.

"We … would be keen to discuss our proposal that, given the difficulties, there be a moratorium on cross-compliance penalties related to sheep EID requirements for three years."

Miller said the really big win would be securing further concessions so that animals which spend their life on their holding of birth would be exempt from electronic tagging.

Much of the impetus for tagging relates to disease spread, but Miller pointed out that sheep which remain on farm pose virtually no disease threat to other flocks and so it is a nonsense that they are caught up in this regulation.

"Sorting out that issue would be a move forward," he said.