Farmers in Northern Ireland have submitted a list of concerns to the Agriculture Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly in relation to cattle ID cross compliance.

New rules set to be enforced by Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) mean a new threshold for missing or illegible tags. This has been set at 10% of animals within the herd or 20 animals with single plastic tags missing.

If the level of missing or illegible tags noted reaches this specified threshold, DARD will consider that the keeper does not have a satisfactory replacement tag policy i.e. does not replace missing or illegible tags within 28 days of discovery. Therefore, even if the tags are replaced within 28 days of the date of completion of the Inspection a negligent Cross-Compliance breach will be applied.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has said it has made DARD aware of our concerns about this threshold on a number of occasions this year however they have thus far maintained their line that this threshold is required in order to satisfy the European Commission.

It says recent feedback from our membership is now showing the impact these changes are having on the ground and farmers have concerns about how this threshold was introduced and how it has been applied.

Further to this the UFU also says it has also been made aware that there is much more flexibility in neighbouring regions and that it is clear that DARD has once again gold plated regulation far and beyond the European requirements.

UFU Deputy President Ivor Ferguson said while the changes to DARD’s cross compliance mechanism is our primary concern we have also highlighted a number of other issues that we have in relation to cattle ID and more specifically the problems farmers are experiencing with the quality of tags that are on offer in Northern Ireland.

He says DARD’s statistics show that almost 7% of tags needed replaced in 2012 and 2013 which does not compare favourably with the Republic of Ireland where the replacement rate was only 4.2% in 2012.

“This issue is creating a considerable burden to farmers both in terms of cost and the time associated with replacing them. Over the course of 2012 and 2013 approximately 430,000 tags were replaced and if we assume an average replacement cost of £3.60 (exVAT) this means that a total of over £1.5m was spent on replacements alone across both these years. For us, this is an unacceptable cost and with the replacement rate in ROI much lower, it is clear that DARD must put in place a more stringent process for approving quality cattle tags in Northern Ireland.”