3 March 2000
Electronic ID for Scots cattle

By Shelley Wright

SCOTLAND is set to introduce electronic identification (EID) for its national herd of 2.1 million beef and dairy cattle.

Farmers leaders have hailed the move as potentially one of the most exciting opportunities ever for the Scottish cattle industry.

Farm minister Ross Finnie is expected in coming weeks to announce an estimated 7m in funding from the Scottish Executive to start up the scheme.

Hosting a conference in Kinross last weekend, he told 250 representatives from all sectors of the red meat industry of his belief that EID offered the Scottish industry real advantages.

And he asked for, and received, backing from the delegates that to take the project forward without delay.

He said: “The proposal is that we carry out a major drive later this year to baseline all two million cattle in the Scottish herd.

“Every farm with cattle, all 20,000 of them, will be visited, checked and rechecked, with all cattle electronically tagged at that time.”

But he insisted that the scheme must not stop there. Electronic Data Transfer (EDT) would also be introduced.

“So, once the herd is baselined, all future notification of births, deaths and movements will have to be notified to Workington (the British Cattle Movement Service headquarters) electronically.”

At the moment, only 5% of cattle passport applications and 20% of movements are notified to BCMS electronically, David Evans, BCMS director, told the conference.

Mr Finnie said EDT would mean every farmer and crofter in Scotland would have to be able to send details by computer, but it did not necessarily mean everyone having to buy their own equipment.

Groups could be established to handle data for a number of farmers, or agents could be used.

“This technology could make a huge difference to on-farm efficiency, as well as making life easier in abattoirs and markets.

“No more postcards, no more illegible writing and checking, and much less chance of subsidies being refused because of human error,” he said.

“It could also have important marketing advantages by keeping the Scotch quality beef sector ahead of the competition,” he added.

He admitted that the initial outlay for the baselining exercise and tagging was considerable. But Mr Finnie said he accepted that, in the longer term, the Scottish Executive would save money by cutting the number and duration of compulsory herd checks.