24 August 2001

Electronic taggings only way to keep live markets

Will electronic tagging of

sheep meet government

demands for total traceability

and allow live trading to

resume? This was one of the

issues tackled at a

conference in Penrith, Cumbria.

Jeremy Hunt reports

PRODUCERS and auctioneers believing the sheep industry can resist electronic tagging and the introduction of a national database for sheep are being unrealistic, says one Cumbrian auctioneer.

Speaking at a traceability conference held in Penrith last week, auctioneer Richard Morris of Penrith Producers and Kidds said DEFRAs stance on the resumption of auction sales of sheep sent a clear message to the industry.

"We live in a society of blame culture. Livestock markets and traders are carrying the blame for the spread of foot-and-mouth and it is going to lead to a knee jerk reaction and inevitable legislation covering markets and marketing.

"As a result, it is not a case of whether we ought to have electronic tagging, it is inevitable that it will happen," Mr Morris told delegates at the conference, organised by electronic tag manufacturer a-Boca BV.

He was convinced that the only way the government would allow large numbers of sheep to be brought together for trading would be when electronic tagging provided water-tight traceability.

"There has been resistance to electronic tagging of sheep in the past, but that was before F&M. The national database for cattle proved invaluable during the F&M epidemic. I think increasing numbers of sheep producers are now prepared to embrace a similar system if it enables the traditional patterns of live selling to resume."

ELECTRONIC TAGGING

&#8226 Inevitable.

&#8226 National sheep database.

&#8226 Tag prices must fall.