Coveney Announces Sheep Electronic Tagging (EID) Arrangements

11th April, 2012

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today
reminded farmers that the practice of re-tagging slaughter lambs on a second or
subsequent holding is not permitted under the National Sheep Identification
System (NSIS). Under NSIS, all sheep born since 31st December 2009 must retain
one identity for life from the holding of origin and that tag number must be
recorded accurately on the movement documentation when sheep are moving off a
holding. One ID for life is at the heart of the EU legislation and Ireland, in
line with all other Member States is obliged to continue to implement this
requirement under the revised NSIS. The only exceptions to this are where tags
are lost, where tags are upgraded to EID as lambs are being retained for
breeding, or being exported live.

Minister Coveney further reminded fatteners/farmers that
they must accurately record the individual tag numbers on the dispatch/ movement
document when the lambs are moving off the holding, or face the risk of cross
compliance penalties for failure to keep accurate and complete records under
NSIS. This information is necessary both for the NSIS record keeping
requirements and for the requirements of slaughterhouses and/or marts that are
required to have records of these tag numbers in order to maintain traceability
to the flock of origin.  The Minister said “lambs that are electronically
tagged at the holding of origin at the outset, on a voluntary basis, have a
definite attractiveness over conventionally tagged lambs as they can be scanned
instead of manually having to record the tag numbers. Furthermore, lambs that
are identified with an EID tag set have the additional attractiveness in that
they require no further tagging to comply with EU or NSIS rules whether they are
being purchased by slaughterhouses, fatteners, exporters or being retained for
breeding”.

In the case of sheep that are electronically identified it will also
be possible for these lambs to be scanned on arrival at a slaughterhouse or mart
that is an approved Central Point of Recording (CPR). Under NSIS the Department
of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will allow for the provision of a facility
whereby slaughterhouses and marts that meet certain requirements can be approved
as a CPR. An approved CPR can provide the farmer with a list of the tag numbers
of the animals in a given consignment for association with the relevant
dispatch/movement document. While the farmer will still have to complete a
dispatch/movement document this will save him/her having to manually read and
write down on the dispatch/movement document all the tag numbers of the sheep
making up the consignment.  The Minister said that “factories and marts
should co-operate in the provision of a CPR service to the farmer”.  Greater use
of EID tags will contribute towards accurate record keeping assured traceability
and help avoid cross compliance penalties”.

The Minister emphasised that Ireland has made significant progress so far in
the implementation of EID in sheep since 2010.  To date some 1.7 million EID
tags sets have been purchased by Irish farmers. “I am anxious to keep up the
momentum on implementation of the final elements of EID in sheep and the
necessary revisions to NSIS because there are significant benefits for the
sector in having a robust identification and traceability system, not least in
continued and improved market access for our sheepmeat products. Indeed, EID
affords many opportunities to build on the progress already made from a disease
control and food safety perspective”
according to the Minister.

The Minister also announced that an Information Booklet detailing the
provisions of the modified NSIS is being issued to all sheep farmers over the
coming weeks. Farmers will already have been advised of the various changes to
NSIS to facilitate the introduction of EID since 2010 but for ease of reference
all the various changes have now been consolidated in the booklet.  Farmers are
urged to read this booklet which gives information on the rules that they must
comply with for sheep tagging/identification, movement, record keeping and
census returns under NSIS. The booklet also gives useful guidance on when to use
the various types of tags/boluses and on the correct way to apply approved ear
tags.

The co-operation of farmers is important if we are to achieve a successful
outcome in the implementation of EID. Minister Coveney, mindful that farmers may
have concerns in areas such as cross compliance, animal welfare and individual
animal movement recording, said

“I want to assure farmers that all these matters will be kept under
constant review and to stress that it is not the intention that farmers should
be subject to any harsher application of cross compliance penalties arising from
the introduction of EID”. 
The Minister further said that “within the
framework of EU rules on cross compliance, my Department will take a sensible
approach to EID and farmers should not be liable for any malfunctioning of EID
tags where all other aspects of their record keeping are in order”.

Minister Coveney acknowledged animal welfare concerns regarding
sheep tagging and the risk of ear infection. In general the low infection rates
can be further reduced by farmers following best practice for tagging sheep
which includes correct placement of the tag in the ear, tagging at the correct
time of year in order to avoid fly strike and also the disinfection of equipment
and the sheep’s ear prior to tagging each animal. His officials will work with
farmers in finding solutions to any problems that may arise. Furthermore, the
Minister said that his Department has no proposals to place an onus on
individual flock keepers to record sheep individually on the Animal
Identification and Movement System.

Note for Editors

In implementing EID in Ireland the Department applied the slaughter
derogation consistent with EU rules, which had the effect of exempting lambs
going for slaughter before 12 months from EID whether they are being sold for
slaughter direct from the holding of origin or whether they are moved for
slaughter via a mart or being traded as store lambs for fattening on a second or
subsequent holding prior to slaughter.  A policy decision was also taken not to
require the older sheep born before 2010 to be re-tagged with EID tags. This
contrasts with the situation in Northern Ireland where a decision was taken to
apply full EID without exception and to require the older animals to be EIDed
with a tag set when leaving the holding.

The benefit to farmers of the application of the slaughter derogation in
Ireland has been the fact that it has enabled Ireland to limit the number of
animals affected by EID to the replacement breeding stock and to live sheep
being exported. In essence, this means that the vast bulk of Irish sheep have
not had to be EID tagged and practice and procedure has broadly remained the
same under the new scheme.

Consistent with the rules, the practice of re-tagging animals, which has
continued up to the present, can no longer be permitted. This change which comes
into effect on 1St June 2012 will affect about 25% of animals going
for slaughter.

Date Released: 10 April 2012