Department sets out to protect ‘smaller’ farmers in new cattle tag supplier system

Key details have emerged of the Department of Agriculture’s new cattle tag supplier approval system, which is currently being developed.

The Department of Agriculture announced last month that it has decided to withdraw a Request for Tenders (RFT) seeking a single supplier for the provision of cattle tags, which was published in May.

The Department said it decided to withdraw the request in light of legal representations received from a number of interested parties.

The legality of the Department of Agriculture’s cattle tag tendering process was called into question by a number of companies who raised legal issues around the tag security proviso of the tender.

The Department is now adopting an approval system which would enable approved suppliers, meeting specified standards and conditions, to supply tags in Ireland for the official bovine ID system.

This Department recently forwarded a draft of the proposed official standards for approval of bovine identification tags and related services to industry stakeholders and has sought observations from potential suppliers by August 5.

The Department says it expects it will be in a position to publish the definitive standards within the next week. The standards relating to the ear tags have also to be cleared with the EU Commission and other Member States under the Technical Standards Directive and the Department submitted a notification under this Directive last week.

It is expected that the new system will be operational with effect from November 1 at the latest.

According to the Department, it will engage with potential suppliers in the meantime.

It says any company that meets all the requirements set down by the Department will be approved to supply bovine identification tags on the Irish market from 1 November 2016.

The intention is that an approval granted to an applicant that made an application in 2016 will remain in place up to December 31, 2020, it says.

Conditions

It is understood that the Department has included a condition that an approved supplier is not permitted to set a ‘minimum order’ for the supply of new tag sets or replacement tags and that it has also set out that the unit price charged per tag or tag set ‘shall not disadvantage smaller producers’.

Strict criteria in relation to loss rates are also understood to be included in the Department’s new system. It is also understood that for a conventional tag to be approved, the annual loss rate must not exceed 7%.

Loss rate in cattle tags is a key issue for farmers with a recent Agriland poll finding that 63% of respondents were unhappy with the quality of the current cattle tags.

The new cattle tag approval system is also understood to set out strict conditions in relation to the continuation of the collection and payment of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) levy that is on tags.

Farmers currently pay a flat rate voluntary contribution of 38 cent per set of tags to the operating costs of the ICBF.

It is understood that any approved supplier will be required to ‘ensure the voluntary ICBF contributions are collected and to ensure the contributions are transferred monthly to ICBF.

Approximately 2.3m bovine animals are tagged and registered each year mainly in the spring/early summer period in approximately 80,000 breeding herds.