Department needs to carry costs of electronic tagging, warn sheep farmers
The full cost of electronic sheep tagging (EID) must be carried by the Department of Agriculture until the marts and factories are fully compliant with the new technology.
The demand was made this week by the ICSA and INHFA after it emerged that most marts will not have EID reading equipment operational by June 1.
Under new regulations, all sheep leaving a farm from this Saturday (June 1) must have a form of electronic identification.
However, many marts have confirmed to the Farming Independent that they will not have their tag-reading equipment in place and operational until later in the summer, and not until the autumn in some cases.
It was initially envisaged that factories and marts would be approved Central Points of Recording (CPRs), with the necessary equipment to read EID tags.
ICSA and INHFA have now called for the Department of Agriculture to carry the full cost of EID tagging until sheep farmers can see the benefits of the technology.
ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara said there was no justification for sheep farmers to bear the cost of EID tagging.
"The factories and marts have not come on board with electronic tagging," he said.
"They have not been compelled to do so by the Department of Agriculture and so the majority have not invested in the necessary equipment in time for the June 1 deadline.
"Sheep farmers don't have a choice in the matter; we have to buy electronic tags.
"However, from June 1, ICSA is calling for a full refund for electronic tags purchased after that date. The cost to farmers for EID tags is upwards of €2.5m per annum. It is a cost we cannot bear, and a cost we should not be expected to bear, if the tags are not being read by the marts and meat factories," he added.
"So until it comes to pass that 100pc of sheep and lambs passing through marts and factories are being read electronically, there is absolutely no justification for sheep farmers to be out of pocket."
This view was shared by INHFA leader Colm O'Donnell. He called on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to step in and cover the full cost of this tagging until such time as it can deliver for farmers in terms of higher prices and reduced paperwork.
"With an annual underspend of over €6m in the Sheep Welfare Scheme, we believe that this should be used in providing the funding for this additional cost," Mr O'Donnell maintained.
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