Commodity Watch - Disappointment at sheep EID vote

Saturday, 26 April, 2014

Commodity Watch  

It is hard to believe that it is five years since sheep EID was introduced in Northern Ireland, requiring keepers to both individually and electronically identify their sheep, as per the European Regulation, and it has been a credit the way sheep farmers have dealt with the rules.

However the legal requirement to identify and tag sheep before nine months of age or before they leave the holding of birth, whichever is sooner, has caused practical difficulties on farm, particularly with tag losses and for breeding stock.  This was flagged up during a recent fact-finding mission by the European Commission Food and Veterinary Office, although disappointingly there has been little appetite from Europe to consider amending the Regulation.

At every opportunity the UFU has lobbied for the Regulation to be reviewed, requesting an amendment so that sheep need only be individually and electronically tagged when they leave the holding of birth.  The benefits of this are plain to see, as it would reduce bureaucracy on farm as well as the cost and hassle of replacing tags, potential animal welfare problems associated with tag losses and also the threat of cross compliance penalties.  Meanwhile the all important aspects of traceability and disease control would not be compromised.

There were high hopes that this long awaited change could soon be on the horizon as Scottish MEP Alyn Smith penned an amendment to the forthcoming EU Animal Health Law to this effect.  However when the amendment was put to the full Parliament it was disappointingly defeated by 360 votes to the 265 who voted in favour.  This is a real blow to sheep farmers across Europe and is unfortunately a missed opportunity in helping to reduce unnecessary red tape.

Nevertheless the UFU will continue to lobby on behalf of all sheep farmers in Northern Ireland to press for a more workable solution to the sheep EID requirements.