THE EXPENSE and inconvenience of double-tagging all breeding sheep could easily become a reality in England next year if producers do not take special care to ensure all their stock are correctly identified this season, warns the English Beef and Lamb Executive.

Defra is currently seeking a national exemption to last December‘s EU regulation requiring the double-tagging of breeding sheep born after July 9, 2005.

But this exemption will only be granted if a visit from EU inspectors, expected in the near future, satisfies the European Commission that the existing national system ensures complete traceability between holdings. 

This puts the onus fairly and squarely on English producers to take particular care to comply with the letter of current tagging regulations, which Defra is currently re-emphasising in guidance notes sent directly to all producers.

In addition to UK (holding of birth) tags, which must be applied to all sheep within 12 months of birth or before they leave their birth holding, special diligence will be needed in the secure application of S and R  tags as and when required.

With the exemption of movements from the holding of birth, S tags have to be applied to all animals prior to every movement to another holding, unless the individual animal numbers are recorded both on the movement document and in the flock register.

In addition, lost or unreadable tags have to be replaced as soon as possible; either with an identical UK (holding of birth) tag if the original identity of the animal is known, or with a red R tag if it is not.

Extra care and attention on the part of every English producer at this stage to ensure the simple tagging rules are being implemented on every occasion will pay real dividends in securing national exemption from the additional burden of double-tagging in 2005 and beyond.

Further information and guidance can be obtained from Grant Horsburgh or Clare Parnham at Defra on 0207 904 6093.