1 September 2000

MAFF to ease form filling

With Cattle Count 2000 fast

approaching and affecting all

herd owners, MAFF is keen

to ensure producers are up

to speed on requirements.

Emma Penny reports

FILLING in the Cattle Count 2000 forms is a daunting thought, but MAFF staff are trying to ensure it is as easy as possible, as well as minimising errors.

Speaking at a joint MAFF and NFU meeting at Bristol last week, John Bell, part of MAFFs animal health group, admitted that the forms had a lot of information on them and that the guidance notes appeared daunting.

"We spent time producing guidance notes, and while I wish they could have been shorter we needed to give enough detail to help people fill in the form. We have tried to point out how to reduce errors – many of them simple things."

As an example, he said forms should be filled in using black ink. "The forms are scanned using a computer and black is the easiest colour for it to pick up." Block letters should also be used, and he added that it was vital to write inside the boxes. "The scanners will only see what is inside the box, so if, for example, part of a nine lies outside the box, it may read as a seven."

But making a mistake on the form is not a great problem, said Mr Bell. "Just write the correct entry in the grey box below the mistake. Where you have ticked the wrong box, fill it in completely which means the machine will read it as being blank, and then tick another option."

Writing down eartag numbers is another area for potential confusion. Using spaces, slashes or dashes makes no difference to humans reading tags, but it can confuse scanning machines, he warned.

"It is vital to enter the tag number correctly. Any leading zeros are important, and when there is a space between numbers you need to show it in the boxes. But do not include any hyphens or slashes, they will confuse the computer."

When tackling the date of birth column, a month and year will do where the exact birth date is not known; if the year is not known, leave the box blank and the computer will automatically put in a default date, said Mr Bell.

"Breed codes should be filled in using the new simplified list produced by BCMS. If you have an unusual breed not covered in the list, phone BCMS for advice."

Country of origin should also be entered, and Mr Bell said it was important to differentiate between cattle born within Great Britain and the United Kingdom.

lQueries about Cattle Count 2000 can be answered by the BCMS helpline (0845-0501234). BCMS staff are also willing, where possible, to speak to groups of producers about Cattle Count 2000.

Cattle Count 2000 should ensure all cattle are on the BCMS database.

FORM FILLING

&#8226 Use black ink.

&#8226 Write within boxes.

&#8226 Mistakes little problem.