By FWi staff

THE Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) is urging sheep farmers to protect the vital export business by supporting a voluntary tagging scheme.

It claims more overseas buyers are seeking improved identification and traceability, and the British industry is in a position to deliver this with the co-operation of sheep farmers.

The UK market at present exports about 8000 sheep a year and 100,000 tonnes of meat.

Industry development adviser Archie Sains believes this market is vital to the British Industry and must be maintained.

“That is why we are urging farmers to adopt a voluntary tagging system now,” he added.

Many foreign buyers have already expressed a desire to see greater identification and traceability so we must accede to their requests.”

The MLC wants the voluntary scheme to contain the current alpha flock mark number. There would be no individual numbers and the tags, from normal suppliers, should be applied before the sheep leave the farm of birth.

Farmers worried about potential costs should have nothing to worry about, said a spokesman for the MLC.

The cost of the scheme is expected to total just a few pence per animal, he added.