5 September 1997

Electronic tagging – 18 months away

ELECTRONIC tagging could be fully operational across the UK within 18 months, according to Livestock Auctioneers Association chairman David Thomlinson.

Speaking during a visit by junior farm minister, Jeff Rooker, to Carlisles Borderway market, Mr Thomlinson said there was growing support across the industry for electronic tagging.

Carlisle is one of 17 livestock markets involved in trialling the electronic identification system set up by tag manufacturers Allflex and computer operators Oxley Systems.

Mr Thomlinson said electronic tags, which recorded each animals date of birth and CID status, were beneficial to livestock markets, as they provided swift and accurate confirmation of animal details.

Alison Reeves, MAFFs British Cattle Movement Service project co-ordinator, said a cross-industry working group would look at ensuring greater compatibility over electronic tagging.

"There is still not available a commercial product which can be guaranteed to read different manufacturers tags and this and other issues need to be resolved," she said.

Farmers at Carlisle market on Friday seemed generally in favour of electronic tagging. Kevin Beaty, who runs 140 Holstein Friesians at Southwaite, Cumbria, argued electronic tagging would lead to less paperwork and a reduction in administration costs.

Tony Shaw, Silloth, Cumbria, said electronic tagging would provide a more efficient way for tracking every animal in the country, as well as keeping an eye on disease surveillance.

David Watson, who runs 100 cows near Carlisle, said the current tag system was easily open to mistakes which often led to subsidy penalties. "Reading tags may be okay in the market but not when youre battling against the elements," he said. The most important thing for any tag was that it didnt fall out of the animals ear, Mr Watson added.

And Ian Campbell, who farms across the border at Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway, said electronic tags would help speed throughput at livestock markets, but he was worried the system could be open to abuse through fraud.

Mr Campbell welcomed the moves towards electronic tagging, but said it was vital that the agreed system had to work first time.n

David Thomlinson (left) explains the merits of electronic tagging to junior farm minister, Jeff Rooker.