The EU needs to recognise the impracticality of rolling out a complete, integrated electronic identification system for every sheep born in the UK after January 2008.

This is the main conclusion of a DEFRA-funded, ADAS UK managed pilot trial on English commercial sheep farms, and at markets and abattoirs.

Concerns about the report’s findings were first reported three weeks ago (News, 21 October).

However, the full report highlights further problems of poor software development and the need for greater refinement of currently-available EID equipment.

“A gold-plating approach to the application of the regulation could lead to an unworkable system, with the potential to reduce co-operation from within the sheep industry, increase the likelihood of individual breaches, and encourage some to give up sheep farming,” the report warns.

“Early clarification of how the regulation is to be interpreted will be fundamentally important to the successful UK-wide introduction of EID.

“The objectives set need to be proportionate in balancing the principles of the regulation with what is feasible in practice.

“The magnitude of the task involved in supplying the quantity of EID devices required should not be underestimated.”

An effective national register database could not be delivered by 2008, and the report’s authors recommend that the UK views EID and traceability in sheep on a five-year horizon.

A timetable for a staged progression towards specific agreed objectives should be put in place.

When the report was launched at ADAS Rosemaund in Herefordshire, Pamela Thompson, pilot trial manager at DEFRA, said the English results and those from EID work in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would be presented to the EU next spring.

She also announced that some of the farmers taking part would be involved in follow-up work on quantifying the cost benefit of EID.

bobdavies@agrinews.fsnet.co.uk