Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

Department in race against time on tags

Officials forced to invoke emergency procedures for bovine ID

The tender to supply around 2.2 million tags annually is worth €18m over three years
The tender to supply around 2.2 million tags annually is worth €18m over three years
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Livestock farmers could be without approved cattle tags from November, as the country's proposed bovine identification regime has hit serious problems.

The Department of Agriculture is in a race against time to secure EU approval for its cattle tagging regime before the current contract expires on October 31.

It has emerged that the Department was forced to invoke 'emergency procedures' when it lodged the latest technical notification on the new bovine tags with the EU last week.

This effectively means that technical approval for the new Irish cattle tags has to be fast-tracked by the European Commission.

However, a Department of Agriculture spokesman said he was confident the clearance from Brussels would be in place before the current contract expires.

"The Department has invoked the urgency procedure in order to facilitate the approval of tags and associate services as soon as possible and the Department anticipates that it will be in a position to complete the review of applications before October 31," the spokesman said.

However, it is not clear what action the Department will take should the approval process in Brussels extend beyond October 31. Ireland is required to maintain a bovine identification and traceability system under EU regulations governing the protection of food-producing animals and, indirectly, the protection of human health.

Mullinahone Co-op holds the current contract to supply bovine tags but the Department is moving to a multiple supplier model for the upcoming regime. The tender to supply around 2.2 million tags annually is worth €18m over three years.

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"There is no limit on the number of suppliers who may apply for approval subject to meeting the standards required by the specifications," the Department confirmed.

The Department had originally lodged the technical notification with the EU in July but collapsed the tender process in August.

"The Department withdrew the tender in the light of representations received from a number of interested parties. The issues raised had the potential to delay the adjudication of tenders beyond the expiry date of the existing contract," a statement explained.

The Department did not elaborate on what exactly “the issues raised” related to, but it has been claimed that the technical details regarding the tags which were forwarded to Brussels did not match with those sent to tag supply companies.

Some company sources have also challenged a Department assertion that invoking the emergency procedure was necessary, as tag suppliers would not be “in a position to supply the market with immediate effect” and required a period of “at least six weeks to bring in supplies of tags from the place of manufacture.”

Although no tags are made in Ireland, with most tagging companies using continental European manufacturers, one tag supplier who contacted the Farming Independent insisted their company already had cattle tags in stock.

Under the new tagging regime, cattle will have two tags, a flag tag and a tissue tag.

The latter is being used in the BVD eradication programme, and in some cases to facilitate genomic testing of the calf.

Indo Farming