SHEEP INDUSTRY leaders have warned producers to keep up to date with current sheep tagging rules ahead of an EU inspection of the UK system in the New Year.

The National Sheep Association (NSA) and the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA) warned that any flaws uncovered could lead to the introduction of a double tagging system.

The rest of Europe will have to double tag sheep from July 2005, but the NSA and LAA, are hoping for a derogation that will allow sheep producers to continue using the current UK tagging system.

In the UK, every sheep has to have an individual number as well as a flock number as their official means of identification. If a tag is lost then it can either be replaced with a tag of the same number or a replacement ‘R’ tag can be used. But the derogation depends on the EU being satisfied that the system is robust enough to give full traceability.

Deputy chief executive of the NSA Peter Morris said: “The tagging rules we have at the moment are onerous and complicated enough. However, if we fail this inspection in January and find ourselves facing the prospect of double tagging sheep, and all that goes with it, then it will be a crippling blow to the sheep sector.

“We would strongly advise all sheep farmers to ensure that they keep replenishing their stocks of ‘S’ and ‘R’ tags on farm so that they are available for use as needed,” said Mr Morris.