Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 March 2018

Follow new sheep ID rules or face fines of up to ¤250K and year imprisonment

Aisling Meehan

Staying on the right side of the law is no joke in sheep farming. If you don't adhere to all the new sheep ID rules, you could face fines of up to €250,000 and imprisonment of 12 months. In comparison, the maximum penalty of €5,000 for horse owners looks like small beer.

While the Department of Agriculture will shortly be publishing a booklet explaining to flock owners the rules that they must comply with for sheep identification and movement under the National Sheep Identification System (NSIS), we've listed the key points farmers need to know so as not to fall foul of the rules. These rules only apply to sheep born after January 1, 2010.

Mandatory electronic tagging has been confined to breeding sheep and live sheep for export born since January 1 last year. These must be tagged by nine months of age with two identifiers bearing the same number, one of which must carry an electronic device.


Where boluses are being used, a matching blue tag must be applied at the same time as each bolus. All lambs less than 12 months old and intended for slaughter in Ireland have been exempted from the mandatory EID requirements and can go to the mart or the factory with one tag in the left ear as before, provided they have been tagged by nine months of age or on leaving the farm they were born on, whichever comes first.

While not mandatory, flock owners selling store lambs or lambs that are likely to be bought for fattening before being slaughtered are recommended to electronically identify their lambs with either a single EID tag or an EID set instead of a permanent mart tag when tagging. Sheep identified with such an EID tag should be more attractive to fattener producers who buy in sheep from multiple holdings since they will be able to automatically generate the tag list after the sheep are scanned.

In the case of store lambs that are electronically identified, it should be possible for these lambs to be scanned at the factory to provide the farmer with a list of the tag numbers of the animals in the consignment covered by the dispatch document. Provided the factory is approved by the Department, this will save the farmer having to manually read and write down on the dispatch document all the tag numbers of the sheep making up the consignment.

The new rules also now require the notification of all movements to the Department's database. Farm to factory or mart movements are made on behalf of sheep farmers by the factories and marts themselves.

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However, there is now a legal requirement on farmers purchasing sheep directly from another farmer to notify such farm-to-farm movements to the Department's movement notification database.

In this regard, it is the responsibility of the buyer to notify these movements by sending a copy of the completed movement document directly to their local DVO within seven days of the date of movement. This requirement only relates to movements directly from farm to farm, as opposed to through a mart.


All sheep born since January 1 last year must retain one tag number for their life from the holding of origin and cannot be retagged when moving from one holding to another. The first tag number a lamb receives in its lifetime at the holding of origin will be the number that is recorded on all documentation for movements throughout its life. The only exceptions to this are when:

•Tags are lost;

•Lambs are upgraded to EID status as they are being retained for breeding;

•They are being exported live.

All keepers of sheep are now obliged by law to carry out an annual inventory of their sheep and return this number to the Department, which until now was normally carried out each December. Before returning the census form to the Department, the number of sheep declared in the census should be recorded in the keeper's flock register.

While the Department has tried to minimise the impact on farmers by confining mandatory electronic tagging to breeding sheep and live sheep for export born since January 1, 2010, farmers that do comply with EID requirements in all their sheep have peace of mind in that they can sell, retain or export their sheep depending on the opportunity that arises and that they are fully compliant with EU and Irish law.

While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information contained in this article, solicitor and tax consultant Aisling Meehan does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising. Tel: 061 368412

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