8 March 1996

On farm electronic tag trials all set to start

THE French Agriculture Ministry is setting up an on-farm electronic tagging trial this year involving 10,000 cattle.

Currently tags cost £2.80 each which is deemed too expensive for electronic identification to be commercially viable.

Price will drop

"But when the system is compulsory the price will drop," said Jose Ruiz, head of improvement at the Ministry of Agriculture. "The problem with such a system is organising the data from producers, slaughterhouses, and breed organisations into a national data-base."

Currently all calves must be identified with a management tag at four months old in the left ear. A month later ministry officials tag each calf with a national identification number in the right ear. In total this costs the producer £2.80 a calf.

An electronic identification system will improve traceability, says Mr Ruiz. It will be easier to trace stock on which a subsidy has been claimed, as well as allow the industry to trace the origins of meat for the consumer.

Data storage

Data are stored at district, regional and national levels by the ministry and used to monitor subsidy payments. Performance data are held by the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA).