Hill farmers selling should receive a subsidy to EID tag store lambs that are sold for further finishing,” according to ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch.

“We remain totally opposed to the principle of EID tagging lambs destined for slaughter,” he said.

“A set of these tags cost €1.30. Thus is a ridiculously high price, relative to the overall value for the lamb, for tags that will remain in an animal’s ears for a matter of minutes. After death these tags are put in a skip, rendering them valueless.

“The argument that EID tags will speed up the slaughter process has no bearing on the farmer. So, if the plants want to go down this road, then they can put in EID tags at their expense.”

But Punch does recognise the argument put up by store buyers that EID tags should be placed in lambs destines for sale in a market.

“Representations have been made to ICSA on this matter. However, where the principle of farmers buying their own tags breaks down is in relation to the sale of mountain lambs for further finishing.

“In these instances the cost of an EID tag set becomes an extremely significant proportion of the lambs’ overall value.

Hill sheep incomes are under enough pressure at the present time.

“So, if the Department of Agriculture remains intent on going down the EID route, then a realistic tag subsidy should be made available to hill flock owners.”

Punch expressed deep concern at rumours to the effect that the number of sheep tag suppliers in Ireland would be reduced to one.

“This is currently the case for cattle, which is fundamentally wrong,” he said

“There is a requirement to have competition in all supply markets. And, in this regard, the procurement of sheep and cattle tags should be no difficult from the procedures put in place for the purchase of all other inputs.”