Stay legal and prepare to get cattle tagged up
By Emma Penny
CATTLE identification tags complying with new EU regulations are now available from manufacturers. With only six weeks until legislation is introduced, producers are urged to order supplies as soon as possible to reduce likelihood of delay. It will also be illegal next year to move cattle which are not properly tagged.
The regulations involve double tagging all cattle born or imported into the UK after Jan 1, 1998. Animals must carry a plastic, two-piece primary tag, with both male and female parts being a minimum of 45x55mm (1.7×2.2in). Each part of the primary tag, at the back and front of the ear, carries a crown logo, the country code – UK – the herd identification and individual animal number, with characters a minimum of 5mm (0.2in) high. There are no restrictions about which ear the tag is inserted into.
The secondary tag, which can be one piece metal or two piece plastic, must carry the same information but may also now carry management data.
According to a MAFF spokesperson, the management data allowed on the secondary tag is currently under debate. This must be approved by the member state, and in the UK is likely to be management number, date of birth, dam identification and possibly animal name. However, MAFF is willing to listen to cases for inclusion of other information.
But, in order to carry management information, the spokesperson acknowledges that the secondary tag would also have to be plastic rather than metal.
Current stocks held on-farm – which do not carry the crown logo – can be used as secondary tags until Dec 31, 1999, when the system is likely to become numeric, explains NFU livestock adviser Carol Lloyd. "In most cases producers will have stocks of tags. These can be used as a secondary tag, and complementary primary tags can be bought from manufacturers."
She says that producers should order tags as soon as possible to avoid potential backlogs, but also warns that it pays to shop around. "Try to get the best deal; dont limit yourself to just your usual supplier."
According to the MAFF source, producers will be limited to the number of tags they can buy, with a maximum order of 120% of a normal years orders in a nine month period. This is to help limit the number of obsolete tags on-farm when all numeric identification is introduced in 1999.
Where animals born after Jan 1, 1998, lose their tags on-farm they must be retagged as soon as possible, and if lost in transit, tags must be replaced by the new owner within 28 days. According to Miss Lloyd, replacement tags could cost £2.50-£5 each. "Theres not much difference in the administration required to produce one tag and 50."
When a tag falls out on the way to market or the abattoir, the remaining tag and passport must match and there must be evidence that the tag has only recently fallen out before sale or slaughter are allowed. However, MAFF will be notified where tags are missing, reducing risk of fraud.
Where cattle born before Jan 1, 1998, lose their tags these can be re-tagged with a different number. Those animals with passports will require a new passport to match the new number, while the new identification of those born before passports were introduced must be cross-referenced in farm movement books. However, MAFF hopes that producers will double tag those animals which have lost their tags.
• Compulsory from Jan 1, 1998
• Primary tags available now
• Illegal to move cattle not properly tagged