16 April 1999
Cattle ID inspections? No sweat — BCMS

By Emma Penny

CATTLE producers – are up in arms about recent advice on cattle identification inspections from the British Cattle Movement Service – are urged not to panic.

NFU regional offices are getting calls from concerned producers about BCMSs leaflet on inspections, says its livestock adviser, Carol Lloyd.

“There is huge panic. The way the leaflet is written, producers have a right to be worried. But it is written from a legal stance, rather than reflecting usual practice.

“In reality, there will be little difference from previous inspections. Staff from the Welsh and Scottish Offices and MAFF will be carrying out inspections and procedures they use will be the same,” she says.

While producers may be worried about visits being unannounced, Ms Lloyd says that in reality only 2-3% of visits are. “Of the rest, about 80% of inspections are carried out with 1-24 hours notice, and about 15% are made after 24 hours notice is given, largely the same as before.”

According to BCMS director David Evans the rules are nothing new. “The ECs desire is that inspections are unannounced. We are not trying to make anyones life harder, but the leaflet just sets out what we expect of producers.

“We are not trying to catch anyone out; we just want to check that producers are following the identification laws. We need to show the EC that the system works, and inspections have thrown up some concerns.

“Among those are passports without cattle and vice-versa, and farm records not supporting passports.”

Some producers are worried about providing staff and facilities for a herd inspection. “Adequate handling facilities and staff are standard requirements for any official inspection.

“MAFF officers are not supposed to have to wrestle cattle to the ground. But at least the bigger tags make seeing numbers easier.”

Mr Evans admits that in some circumstances – although he was unwilling to give a precise scenario – inspectors could return to the farm on a pre-arranged date to check cattle ear-tags. “Inspectors will use their common sense. Co-operate with them and it is no big deal.”

Farms are selected for inspection on a risk analysis basis, he explains. “This is based on many factors, including cattle numbers on a holding, past inspection history, tags orders and the number of births on a holding.”

Inspectors will attempt to combine BCMS inspections with other visits, such as for suckler cow premium, or beef special premium.

However, Ms Lloyd warns that because different risk analysis programmes are used in each case, there is no guarantee that inspections will be combined.

“This is a key concern for the NFU, as producers will have to pay for enforcement of identification laws from 28 September, a move we fundamentally oppose. We would argue that combining inspections with those for subsidies could significantly cut costs,” she says.