Sheep sector wins electronic tagging extension

Sheep farmers and farming leaders yesterday welcomed a relaxation in the regulations surrounding the identification of sheep which was reckoned will save the UK sheep industry up to £11.5 million.

The decision by Europe’s Standing Committee for Food Chain and Animal Health will extend the deadline for the compulsory electronic tagging of sheep born before 1 January, 2010, to the end of 2014.

The requirement to electronically tag the so-called Historic Flock had been scheduled to come into force at the end of this month but sustained lobbying resulted in the extension.

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As far as farming leaders were concerned, the requirement to individually record the movements of these older sheep represented a substantial administrative burden as it required the manual recording of individual numbers or upgrading animals to electronic tags.

Livestock policy manager for NFU Scotland, Penny Johnston, described the original deadline of this month as “really rubbing salt in the wounds of farmers who are already struggling to keep on top of all the requirements associated with cumbersome EID regulations”.

“The UK government made the request for a delay on behalf of farming unions in an effort to ease some of the increasing burden on farmers of sheep EID, and while a compromise, we are delighted with the result.

UK farm minister Jim Paice said he was pleased that Brussels had listened to the concerns he and others had been raising. “In this economic climate, it is neither economical nor practical to electronically tag the millions of sheep born before electronic identification was introduced.”

The three-year derogation cannot be extended, but with the natural aging of the national flock by the end of 2014 there will be a significant reduction in the number of older animals likely to be affected.