22 May 1998

Double-tag rules still causing confusion in cattle industry

Double tagging cattle is still

causing some difficulty, and

sheep producers are likely to

be next in line for introduction

of more rigorous traceability.

Emma Penny reports

LENGTHY waits between ordering and receiving tags, confusion over when legislation takes effect, debate on tag colour and the practicalities of inserting double tags have combined to make implementing new double tagging rules a headache for the cattle industry.

While the new legislation was supposed to come into effect on Jan 1, 1998, delays at tag makers and discussions over implementing the EU regulations in the UK meant calves born after Jan 1 have been allowed to move off farm with a single tag, but that dispensation ends in mid-June, says the NFUs tagging specialist, Carol Lloyd.

"We pressed for and got the dispensation allowing calves to be moved on a single tag with a special calf passport, but that is due to end in mid-June. After that, all animals born on or after Jan 1 this year moving off farm must have double tags."

Where calves have already moved off farm with one tag, the onus is on the buyer to ensure it has a second tag and meets requirements before it moves on again. In some cases, breeders have sent second tags on to buyers, but where this is not the case, tags must be bought. Ms Lloyd suggests that with individual tags costing up to £4.50 each, it may be worth contacting a few firms to obtain quotes.

The new regulations require animals to have two official tags. The primary must have male and female parts, both of which must be at least 45mm x 55mm (1.7×2.2in). Both parts must be printed with the UK logo – a crown – and the herd identifier and individual animal number, all of which must be distance readable with characters a minimum of 5mm (0.2in) high.

Initially primary tags of any colour were allowed, but MAFF has now decided that primary tags must be yellow, although producers will be allowed to use current stocks of other colours, as Ms Lloyd explains: "Other EU member states have opted for one yellow tag and one other. MAFF became concerned that when exports resume these countries would be worried about the variety of tags used in the UK, and it has, therefore, decided to standardise the primary tag to help avoid difficulties. Manufacturers are likely to offer only yellow primary tags in future."

The secondary tag can be any MAFF approved tag and must carry the same information as the primary tag. Producers can also opt to have management information on this tag, and although there were moves afoot to limit the information which could be carried to about five items, Ms Lloyd has not seen any official information on this.

There is no guidance about which ear the primary tag must be placed into, as long as primary and secondary tags are in different ears, she says. "We have had some producers putting both tags in the same ear, which is not acceptable. In those cases, producers have had to buy replacement tags for the other ear."

She also urges producers to ensure tags are not inserted back to front, which is occurring with many primary tags.

"Ensure tags are inserted correctly to help reduce losses. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer."

The new system, which will tie the electronic tag allocation system (ETAS) up with the British Cattle Database should mean a more secure system. "It will also mean that MAFF can identify herds ordering a lot of replacement tags, and can try to sort out concerns, whether it is with inserting tags correctly or tag design."

Makers will now issue all primary tags in yellow as MAFF tries to reduce confusion on the Continent.

DOUBLE-TAGGING CATTLE

&#8226 Single tag dispensation ends in June.

&#8226 Primary tags now yellow.

&#8226 Ensure correct insertion.