‘Unnecessary chaos’ predicted for rollout of electronic sheep tagging

Minister Creed says he has engaged with stakeholders

Michael Harrrington, Castletownbere, Co Cork, tagging his Scotch sheep at Kenmare Mart. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan
Michael Harrrington, Castletownbere, Co Cork, tagging his Scotch sheep at Kenmare Mart. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan
TJ Gormley with the sheep tags sold through Cormac Tagging.

Ciaram Moran

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has been urged to initiate further engagement with stakeholders as a matter of urgency on the introduction of mandatory EID tagging for all sheep.

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks said the farmers he represents are deeply concerned with the lack of real consultation on EID thus far.

“A deeper level of understanding of the issues on the ground is required by the Department at this time if we are to avoid unnecessary chaos should this rollout be attempted in October.”

“Both logistical and financial obstacles must be overcome in order to facilitate a smooth transition over to electronic tagging. First at foremost, sheep farmers simply cannot carry the estimated €2.5 in annual costs.

Mr Brooks said it is untenable than such a low income sector should be expected to take a financial hit of this magnitude.

“Sheep farmers are not the ones who will benefit from EID so why should be forced to pay for this service to others?”

“In addition, ICSA maintains its position that lambs going direct from the holding of birth to slaughter should be fully exempt as no additional traceability is accrued from this. Efficiency in factories might improve but there will be no benefit to the primary producer or to the end consumer.

“A consensus will need to be agreed between all stakeholders as to how best protect the industry for the future. A big part of protecting the industry is making sure we retain the primary producers, not force them out because they can’t make a living.”

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“As it is profitability is right down, lamb prices falling to a pittance with factories offering barely over €5.00 for spring lamb.

“These are the same factories that suggest there is scope to increase production by up to one million sheep annually yet prices are pulled at the slightest increase in supply. The bottom line is EID will do nothing that would result in sheep farmers achieving a better price,” he said.

Minister Creed has said that he has met with a number of the stakeholders in the sheep industry since he announced the new rules on 2 May.

He recently said a number of submissions have also been made on the matter and he is currently considering the views expressed by all parties and will make a further statement when he has completed these deliberations.

The Minister has highlighted that the ability to identify and trace animals is critical from an animal health, food safety and animal welfare perspective.

“The current system was introduced in 2010. The system is complex, with multiple and different scenarios associated with the movement/trading of sheep – necessitating a 44 page Step by Step Guide published by the Department.

“The current system necessitates the manual transcription of a series of individual lengthy tag numbers at each point of transaction along the supply chain – which provides significant ongoing challenge in the context of an effective traceability system,” he said.

He outlined that the main benefits of the new arrangements can be summarised as relating to reduced complexity associated with tag types and retagging of animals, readable and accurate records, and reduced administrative burden for farmers.

It will critically improve industry and the State's capacity to effectively respond – in a timely, targeted, focused and accurate way - to critical animal health and food safety incidents/events,” he said.

“It also facilitates DAFM, acting on behalf of the industry, in engaging more proactively in seeking and achieving new market access for Irish sheep and sheep meat products.

“Hence, the new rules will provide a more robust sheep traceability system and will further support the development and sustainability of the sheep industry as detailed in the Food Wise 2025 Strategy,” he said.

Minister Creed also said he accepted that additional costs will accrue to farmers in extending EID to all sheep.

In that context, he said he has announced the introduction of a one off support measure up to a maximum of €50 per keeper for the first purchase of EID tags.

“Electronic tag readers and associated software are included as eligible investments in the Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) scheme to assist sheep farmers in flock management,” he said.

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