Proposals to introduce electronic identification (EID) for all sheep born after 2008 dominated discussions both on and off the podium at this year’s Northern and Borders Sheep Fair.

It seems unlikely the UK will be ready for sheep EID by 2008. Systems could take 5-10 years to fully implement and technology providers are stuck in a chickenand egg situation, said Richard Webber of Somerset-based Shearwell Data.

“Companies can’t go ahead and mass-produce tags without knowing whether the system will start in 2008,” Mr Webber told the audience.

The EID proposal found little favour with delegates either. Most failed to see any real benefit and said they could ill afford the extra costs involved.

One upland producer, who did not wish to be named, believed it was time UK farmers refused to accept EID.

“I run an upland flock and I can’t see how the additional management information produced would help my business,” he said.

National Sheep Association chief executive Peter Morris agreed.

“We already have traceability.

We need to let market forces not legislation drive electronic technology,” said Mr Morris.

“So far, no one has put forward a convincing case for the need for EID.

“We will appeal for more time and the government has been reasonably supportive of our stance.

There is not enough money in the industry to stand the expense and a lot more convincing data is needed before the advantages are proven.”

fwlivestock@rbi.co.uk