Opinion

Why not make EID a mandatory requirement for all sheep and cattle?

I can’t understand the furore over the decision to extend Electronic Identification (EID) to all sheep. I know there are cost implications but the principle seems extremely sound.

If it helps the factories gain better access to a host of markets, then flock-owners should be the key beneficiaries in the long run.

In fact, I now want go one step further. I believe that electronic tagging, in any or all of its guises, should be considered as the way forward for all classes of Irish livestock.

I would be the first person to point out that any bovine animal can easily lose a yellow tag. A bit of head butting in a field or competition between animals at a feed barrier can easily make this a reality.

The farmer is then left with the job of working out which animal the discarded tag belongs to.

This is straightforward if the matching tag is where it should be. But sometimes cattle – particularly cows – can lose both tags in a relatively short period of time.

And then there is the issue of rustling. Whether we like it or not, this is still a real challenge facing farmers in certain parts of the country.

Even the smallest number of no-gooders can, potentially, do tremendous damage to the reputation of Ireland as a country that can guarantee full traceability, where livestock movements are concerned.

Given this background, surely it’s time the livestock industry gave serious consideration to the option of prescribing electronic tags for cattle – or even the feasibility of having every bovine animal electronically chipped.

All dogs must be electronically chipped, a process that is carried out by a registered veterinarian shortly after birth. This has been the law for a number of years and is now universally accepted as the status quo.

The number of husbandry-related advantages that an EID-based tagging system for cattle could generate would, in my opinion, more than outweigh the assumed additional cost of such an approach.

In many ways, EID completes the circle when we talk about the use of information technology (IT) within agriculture.

Putting an electronic chip into a beast is the ultimate deterrent against rustling or any other practice associated with the changing of an animal’s identity. The big argument against it is the associated cost.

However, given the significance of ensuring the highest levels of traceability for our beef and dairy sectors, I strongly believe that a thorough review of new animal identification options should be undertaken.