Sheep farmers are strongly opposed to the introduction of full Electronic Identification (EID) IFA Sheep Chairman James Murphy told a Wexford IFA executive meeting this week.

He told the meeting on Wednesday night that farmers would be “very foolish” to sign up to the idea of identity for life.

“Sheep farming is a less than perfect system, but we have to accept that. The farmer will pay for EID tagging but others will benefit.

“Farmers are doing the best they can, every single sheep that comes off the farm has its own unique identity.”

He also urged the Department of Agriculture to reconsider the introduction of full EID tagging. He cited the extra cost as a major stumbling block.

“Trying to push farmers into fully EID tagging at an extra cost of €2m on the farmer is very unfair and it will drive more people out of the industry.

“Increased electronic tagging is not the solution. Farmers are snowed under with regulations. Every layer of regulation will take money out of a struggling industry.”

David Caldwell of the Department of Agriculture eased farmers concerns in regards to cross compliance issues.

“If someone sent 50 sheep to the factory and 47 scan, the cross compliance will see no liability for the farmer.”

He also said that if EID tagging was introduced there would be full recording at the factory or mart so it would reduce the paper work required by farmers.

When the question was raised on identifying individual sheep in a flock, he said if farmers have no idea where the sheep came from they are supposed to put a red tag in, tractability is lost and the next stop is the factory. The red tag significantly reduces their options.”

Martin Farrell, from the Animal Identification and Movement section of the Department of Agriculture highlighted why sheep tagging needs reform.

“The current system is very complex, the Department is looking for a better way to identify sheep.

“The Animal Identification and Movement database underpins Irish tractability.

“It supports our global reputation for food exports. Effective tractability is the platform we need to sell our products.”

He added that the Department is currently looking at three options. These are a full EID set, a single EID or extending EID to all sheep with the exception of lambs destined directly for slaughter, he said.