EID tag confusion creating havoc on many sheep farms
Expensive sheep identification system to comply with EU legislation has left farmers baffled
Irish exports of lamb have dropped by almost 50pc in the past 10 years which reflects the poor profitability in the sector over that period.
Many mixed dry stock farmers simply increased their suckler herd at the expense of the sheep flock over this period, as the lesser of two evils, regarding profitability.
However, there are hopeful signs, with the buoyancy in breeding sales and the amount of ewe lambs retained for breeding last year, that sheep numbers will increase this year and that we will now have a more vibrant sheep sector.
The implementation of electronic sheep tagging or EID in Ireland is perhaps one of the most confusing, unclear and unnecessary pieces of legislation enacted by the EU Commission and therefore by our Department of Agriculture.
Real confusion exists for Irish sheep farmers who are wondering what type of tags should I order? How do I comply with the legislation? If I buy store lambs, what do I do?
EID in sheep officially came into effect on January 1, 2010, and any sheep retained for breeding born after this date must have an EID tag set. This comprises one mart-type tag in the left ear and one electronic tag in the right ear.
In reality what came into effect on this date was "one ID for life" as in our cattle identification system. Unlike cattle, however, many sheep farmers have hundreds of lambs and adult sheep, which makes the process of recording these numbers individually at sale time a major problem.
The majority of sheep farmers who breed and rear their own lambs and sell the resultant lambs direct for slaughter simply insert a 'slaughter only' or tip-type tag sequentially into the lambs when they are leaving the farm. Farmers simply complete their new dispatch documents as has been the case for the last few years and therefore there is no change.