7 June 2002

Decision over EID continues

AUCTIONEERS have rejected criticism that suggests livestock markets are dragging their feet over the introduction of electronic identification (EID) systems for cattle and sheep.

The claim, made by David Jones of EID software provider Newline at the recent Beef 2002 event at Wooler, has been strongly refuted by auction companies that have invested in EID systems but found them wanting in terms of reliability and take-up by producers.

EID is expected to be put into place in many EU member states to ease animal identification, traceability and to help prevent subsidy fraud.

But rather than lagging behind, auctioneers say they are waiting for the government and industry to decide which type of EID system is to be used nationwide before investing additional capital.

"Until we get clear guidance on the way forward the situation is at a stalemate," says McCartneys director Glyn Owens. "There is a battle over the type of transponder that could be used that is not dissimilar to the old competition that existed between Betamax and VHS in the video market.

"We have tried many systems and, frankly, the results have been disappointing. There is still much work to be done before we can invest with confidence."

A spokesman for John Swan & Sons, which ran trials at St Boswells mart in the 1990s, said the company was also unwilling to invest extra capital until teething problems had been overcome.

While auctioneers, software and eartag manufacturers remain at loggerheads, Meat and Livestock Commission officials suggest the EU Commission is to announce EID test results from the Continent that could signal the way forward. These are expected to filter into new animal identification regulations expected from Brussels.

According to Glyn Williams, of Frank R Marshall, the decision will not come a moment too soon. "We need ministers to stop sitting on the fence. They argue the decision over which system will be used is commercial and not theirs to make. We need leadership."

Mr Jones was unavailable to comment on auctioneers reaction as farmers weekly went to press. &#42