Reacting to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed’s announcement to introduce compulsory electronic identification tagging (EID), the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) has labelled the move “unacceptable”.

The president of the INHFA, Colm O’Donnell, described the announcement as “another solo run by Minister Creed and his department”.

“This announcement has connotations of the botched fodder aid package implemented by the department – which was contrary to what was agreed by the stakeholders’ action group and of little or no benefit to the affected farmers,” the president said.

This move to full EID needs the input of the farmers producing the lambs to advise on the most effective transition to introduce compulsory EID tagging, he added.

By picking the date – as October 1 is right in the middle of the store lamb trading season – it shows just how out of touch our department is with the industry.

However, if the department insists with the current start date, O’Donnell said: “Tagging derogations to use slaughter tags for all store lamb movements between now and then will have to be given – where these lambs are slaughtered after October 1.”

The INHFA is calling on the minister and his officials “to engage with all industry stakeholders before progressing any further with the introduction date for compulsory EID if he genuinely wants to simplify the sheep tagging system and reduce record-keeping requirements for sheep farmers”.

Department response

A source in the Department of Agriculture has responded to this, noting that the department issued a letter to stakeholders on April 8, 2015.

This letter indicated that it would be appropriate to review the existing arrangements on implementation of the National Sheep Identification System (NSIS) and establish a working group involving the department and the stakeholders.

The working group held two meetings on July 8, 2015, and August 17, 2015.

There were further extensive discussions on the matter during the consultation process on the Sheep Welfare Scheme, the department source added.