21 April 2000

UK flock tag will aid exports

By Johann Tasker

THE governments £6m plan to tag all of Britains sheep will help protect the market for lamb exports, claim British farmers and marketing experts.

Every one of the 44m sheep in Britain must be earmarked or tattooed with its place of birth if government proposals are adopted.

At a cost of 15-20p an animal, the move is expected to cost farmers about £6.6m in the first year and £3.25m annually thereafter.

Tagging should be implemented as soon as possible, said Archie Sains, industry development adviser at the Meat and Livestock Commission.

Mr Sains believes tagging will improve sheep traceability and help protect the trade in live exports and shipments of British lamb carcasses.

Mike Gooding, group marketing director of the newly-formed Farmers First group, which includes live-exporters Farmers Ferry, agreed. "Tagging will create significant marketing opportunities for British sheep because many of our Continental customers want traceability," he said. Farmers Ferry carried most of the 1.1m live sheep exported from Britain to the Continent last year.

A spokeswoman for the National Sheep Association, which represents sheep farmers, said the organisation was looking forward to examining the proposals.

The new rules would introduce a requirement for all sheep and goats to be ear-tagged or tattooed before they leave their holding of birth.

Under the scheme, due to come into force on Sept 1, anyone keeping sheep will face fines of up to £5000 if they fail to mark their animals correctly. MAFF officials believe the scheme will help safeguard exports by providing data on the origin of the animals being exported.

In the event of a disease outbreak it would also be possible to identify an animals holding of birth and to trace the lifetime movements of a diseased animal. &#42