IFA and Department clash over tagging regime

The IFA says serious damage will be done to the BVD eradication programme
The IFA says serious damage will be done to the BVD eradication programme

Claire McCormack

Serious damage will be done to the BVD eradication programme by the Department of Agriculture's apparent move to set aside legal obligations requiring farmers to use tissue test tags on calves, the IFA has warned.

The association's animal health chairman, Bert Stewart, said that combining testing for BVD with tagging had been a cornerstone of the eradication drive. But this approach had now been "fundamentally dismantled by the Department," he claimed.

The latest developments in the bovine tagging saga came after Brussels refused to allow Ireland to invoke 'emergency procedures' when the Department lodged the latest technical notification on the new bovine tags with the EU recently.

"In view of this decision by the Commission and in order to avoid any disruption in the supply of ear tags, the Department has decided to proceed to approve tag suppliers whose ear-tags meet the requirements for bovine identification set down in EU Legislation (Regulation 911/2004)," the Department stated.

The Department statement accepted that tissue tags used for BVD testing purposes could be approved as the second official ear-tag if they met the "requirements of an identification tag".

However, this is viewed as an effective rowing back from the mandatory use of tissue test tags.

In response, Mr Stewart pointed out that €45m had been spent by farmers on the eradication of BVD. He said the Department could not "wash their hands of their responsibilities in this area".

He said it was astounding that the Department's backtracking on the BVD programme came in the same week that the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, launched the consultation process for a National Farm Animal Health Strategy.

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The new cattle tagging regime is due to be in place on November 1, but the process of securing EU approval has been mired in legal and technical wrangles. The Department's handling of the issue has also been strongly criticised by industry sources, with one describing the current situation as a "complete and total mess".

The Department had originally lodged the technical notification for the new cattle tagging regime with the EU in July but collapsed the application process in August.

Since then the Department has been in a race against time to get the approval process completed by the October 31 deadline.

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