'We are not ready for EID tagging' warn sheep marts
Many of the country's marts are not prepared for the introduction of electronic tagging of sheep (EID) and will not have tag reading systems in place by June 1.
A number of marts contacted by the Farming Independent said they had applied for grant approval to install the necessary tag reading equipment, but admitted that the technology would not be operational by the start of next month.
Under new regulations, all sheep leaving a farm from June 1 must have a form of electronic identification.
Lambs under 12 months and going directly for slaughter must be electronically tagged; while sheep traded from farm to farm or going through the marts must have an EID tag set which comprises both an EID and a conventional tag.
It was initially envisaged that factories and marts would be approved Central Points of Recording (CPRs), with the necessary equipment to read EID tags.
However, many marts have confirmed 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.
The delays have been blamed on backlogs in securing grant approval for the tag-reading equipment and in aligning existing computer systems which the marts use with the new technology required for EID tag reading and recording.
George Candler of Kilkenny Mart maintained that they will be ready for June 1, but Patsy Smith of Dowra Mart admitted that it could be six weeks before their system is operational, while Harry Molloy of Carndonagh Mart said it would be the middle of June before the mart would be ready.
A committee member at Mountbellew Mart said that they still "had a bit of work to do" and that it will be later in the year before the mart would be ready to read EID tags".
Meanwhile, Dan McCarthy of Kenmare Mart said the mart was in the process of installing the necessary equipment. But he said they would not be in a position to read tags by June 1 and expressed "grave concern" regarding the EID initiative.
Mr McCarthy pointed out that the reading equipment for livestock chutes read just 90-95pc of tags. "How will we identify those that have not been read?" he asked.
Mr McCarthy claimed that EID would require more staff for marts such as Kenmare that dealt with up to 3,000 head on busy days.
However, Ray Doyle of ICOS said EID will bring real benefits for the mart sector and he encouraged marts to avail of the grants.
Grants to a maximum of €15,000 (or 80pc of total outlay) are available to the marts for installing the necessary EID-related equipment.
While Mr Doyle pointed out that installing the equipment for EID tag reading was not mandatory for the marts, he predicted that the "bigger centres" would do it.
The INHFA reiterated its opposition to the introduction of EID tagging, claiming that farmers were carrying the full cost of the measure while seeing none of the benefits.
Brendan Joyce of INHFA pointed out that the labour saving involved with not having to read and document each sheep tag was the main selling point of EID for farmers. If the marts couldn't provide this service, then the benefits of EID were "questionable", he claimed.
A spokesman for Meat Industry Ireland said the factories would be ready to operate as CPRs from June 1.
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