An online system of recording all cattle movements is set to be introduced in Scotland at the end of 2017.
The Scottish government said it is introducing the system, called ScotMoves, because the current Cattle Tracing System links (CTS links) does not comply with EU regulations and poses a risk to disease control and public health.
ScotMoves will give Scottish government access to all cattle movement data in Scotland and provide a central record of all cattle locations in the event of a disease outbreak.
It will be hosted on the ScotEID database system, which hosts the sheep, goat and pig movement systems together with the bovine viral diarrhoea eradication programme.
However, NFU Scotland said the changes would be “unpopular and controversial” with cattle keepers because they would see an end to the CTS linked holding rules.
Currently, keepers can register holdings they regularly use so cattle movements between these linked holdings do not need to be electronically recorded – although they do have to be noted in the farm’s herd register.
Call for flexibility
NFUS vice-president Andrew McCornick said the union had written to Scottish farm minister Fergus Ewing calling for flexibility for cattle keepers using the new system.
“Scottish government has been looking to end the use of linked holdings since 2007 but intervention by NFU Scotland has secured their continued use until now,” he added.
“Many cattle keepers around Scotland will now be concerned about the replacement system, its reliance on figures being recorded accurately on a central database and what that means for potential penalties and cross-compliance.”
Mr McCornick said he had received reassurances from Mr Ewing that under cross-compliance there would be no financial penalties for any first-time breaches for anyone using the system.
“Proposals need to take better account of weekends and delays in updates to the Scottish system from the national CTS,” he added.
“Practical timings for recording movements is needed to ensure farmers doing their best to comply don’t get landed with penalties.”
The Scottish government said it hopes to develop ScotMoves “in due course”.
The NFUS said it would be drawing up guidance for its members.