A threshold for missing or illegible tags has been introduced by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) in Northern Ireland.
It says that the correct identification of cattle is necessary in order to trace cattle for public health and animal disease control reasons. Under EU and domestic legislation, cattle in Northern Ireland must be identified with two yellow plastic ear tags with the same identification number recorded on each tag. Missing or illegible tags must be replaced within 28 days of discovery. To emphasise the importance of replacing ear tags promptly and based on advice from the European Commission (EC), the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has altered its approach to its application of Cross-Compliance penalties in cases where animals are found to have ear tags missing.
Currently, if an animal at a Cattle Identity Inspection (CII) is found to have a missing or illegible ear tag, no cross-compliance breach will be applied if the tag is replaced within 28 days. If the tag is not replaced within this timeframe an intentional breach is applied and this incurs a severe financial penalty.
However EC guidance on this subject suggests that instead of automatically allowing 28 days to replace a missing tag, DARD should seek to identify whether or not the keeper has an effective procedure in place to replace tags when they are found to be missing or illegible.
DARD has therefore introduced a threshold for missing or illegible tags noted at a CII. 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.
If the level of missing or illegible tags noted at an Inspection is below this threshold DARD will consider this to indicate that the keeper does have a satisfactory replacement tag policy. If the missing or illegible ear tags are not replaced within 28 days this will no longer be considered an automatic intentional breach. A negligent breach will be applied unless the Inspector considers that the animal keeper deliberately did not replace the tags within 28 days.
For animals presented at inspection with both ear tags missing, DARD’s view is that the keeper has clearly demonstrated that he has not been proactive in taking the appropriate action regarding missing ear tags. This will therefore be considered to be a negligent cross-compliance breach.
The revised approach to cross-compliance and missing tags has been in operation since January 1, 2014.