1 November 1996

All-change for ear-tags if EU plans go ahead

CATTLE producers could be required to replace existing ear-tags in stock by the end of next year if EU proposals come to fruition.

It plans to introduce an all-numeric cattle identification system.

Currently all UK cattle born after Apr 1, 1995, must be identified in the right ear with a uniquely coded official ear-tag. This must carry the UK country code, and the herd and individual management numbers. It is both alpha and numeric – with letters in the herd number and the country code.

"EU now proposes that all identification is numeric with letters only for the two-digit country code," says Archie Sains, senior Meat and Livestock Commission industry strategy consultant.

"Our concern is that all cattle may have to be retagged, which is unrealistic. The existing tag would have to be cut out or a new tag put in alongside it. But with multiple tagging there would be no guarantee that the correct tag is read."

Geoff Rhodes, managing director of North Yorks-based Ritchey Taggs is equally concerned.

"While most plastic tags could be clipped out of the ear harmlessly, metal tags would be trickier," he says. "We could retag the animal leaving the old tag in the ear, but this would cause confusion."

Roland Kershaw-Dalby of the National Cattle Association believes animals must be retagged with their new numeric code to prevent fraud. Checks would be essential to ensure each animal has been properly identified.

EU plans also include animal identification by two ear-tags. All information concerning the animals movements will be recorded on the animals passport, which will always accompany the animal, the EU proposals state. The identity of each animal and its movements should also be recorded in a computerised database in each member state, it adds. It wants the database running by Dec 1997. &#42

The EU plans to introduce double tagging and all-numeric numbers for cattle identification.

&#8226 All-numeric ear-tag code except two letters for country code.

&#8226 Double tagging – one distance-readable and one secure tag.

&#8226 Centralised database in place by Dec 1997 to record cattle identification and movement.