NSA sets out its stall to EC on ear tagging issue

The National Sheep Association has risen to a challenge thrown down to them by the European Commission to prove there is no risk of disease spreading from sheep that remain on the farm on which they were born.

If they can prove this to be the case, the NSA believes it removes the onerous requirement to tag sheep before they leave the holding of their birth.

NSA Scotland’s development officer, George Milne, said yesterday that the organisation had called for a joint industry and government full veterinary risk assessment to be carried out to establish the risk of disease spread from such sheep.

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He said this was in response to European Commission officials, who had made it quite clear that they would require written “evidence-based” research to support the NSA’s request to individually identify animals only when they leave the holding of birth.

Scottish NSA chairman, Jimmy Sinclair said: “We see no reason why sheep need to be individually identified when they are on the holding of birth, but this piece of evidence should ensure once and for all that there is no risk of any sheep transmitting disease until it comes to moving off the holding.”

The Scottish Government’s environment secretary, Richard Lochhead, is to be asked to support the NSA proposal to establish the facts and to commission the necessary assessments to be carried out

Milne said he believed the result of this evidence would show clearly the financial savings that could be achieved for the industry in delaying the need for EID tagging until the sheep leave the holding of birth.

This would also bring benefits to the industry in cross-compliance inspections.

He also hoped the information could then be used by other countries similarly afflicted by the burden of EID.

Next week, Scottish NSA president John Cameron and Milne will meet members of the European Union Agricultural Committee in Brussels where apart from the latest moves on EID, they would be giving MEPs copies of their recently published report, Complementary Role of Sheep in Less Favoured Areas.

This, they are hoping, should trigger discussion on Common Agricultural Policy reform issues which would have a direct impact on Scottish sheep farmers.