Transition date for EID tagging of all sheep ‘will be a disaster’

The mandatory extension of electronic identification (EID) tagging to all sheep at the height of the sale season will be a “complete disaster”, Dan McCarthy – the manager of Kenmare Mart – has warned.

As part of plans announced earlier this year, all sheep sold from October 1, 2018, onward will have to be identified electronically.

However, speaking to AgriLand, McCarthy suggested that May 1, 2019, would be “a more suitable date” – because October 1 is in the midst of the sale season for store lambs.

“In my opinion, October is the wrong time for these new rules to be introduced,” he said.

Under the recently announced rule changes, all sheep sold or sent to slaughter after October 1 will have to be EID tagged.

Farmers who buy lambs prior to October 1 without EID tags and then decide to move them on after that date will be required to re-tag those lambs with the correct tags in order for them to be accepted into a mart or factory.

But, McCarthy is of the opinion that less disruption would be caused if the measure was introduced at the beginning of May – due to the fact that there would be less sheep passing through the system.

Traceability

Continuing, the local independent councillor added that “it will be impossible” to achieve full traceability in the Irish sheep sector – due to the quantity of sheep being grazed on mountains across the country.

He pointed out that, in his region, mountain-grazing areas can range in size from between 300ac to 3,000ac.

“When sheep go to the mountain, a different number returns every time they are herded; this is due to the size of commonage areas.

There is no boundary fence on the commonage from Kenmare to Killarney; so you could have a lot of sheep mixing up there.

Cost

The mart manager also highlighted cost implications that farmers will face as a result of the extension of EID tagging to all sheep.

“Farmers are currently paying about €0.35 for sheep tags. But it is estimated that the new EID tags could cost farmers up to €1.30.

“They are annoyed at further costs being pushed upon them,” he said.

The department announced its intention to issue a contribution of up to €50 per flock keeper to cover the initial cost of changing over to EID tags, but McCarthy believes this contribution needs to be much higher.

Concluding, he said: “[Government officials] should talk to people on the front-line of the sheep industry – people who have large numbers of sheep on commonages. Then they would see how difficult it will be to achieve full traceability.”