Cattle ID: Know the rules or face SFP cuts

Dairy and beef farmers need to “spring clean cattle identification records” to make sure they are compliant with the rules, according to cross compliance adviser Simon Draper.

Speaking at a farmer discussion meeting with BCMS and the Cross Compliance Advice Programme, Mr Draper said is was vital farmers got to grips with the rules.

“Last year roughly 50% of livestock farms inspected failed on cattle identification and/or movements and this is a concern as every failure is costing the industry. It is in no-one’s interest to fail, as once failures hit a threshold, EU legislation insists the inspection process countrywide is doubled.”

Failures ranged from not notifying births, deaths and movements to passport anomalies, animal holding breaches and animal identification failures.

In fact, holding register discrepancies and failure to notify birth deaths and movements are both on the increase and simple things such as not sending back passports once an animal has died could cost a farm 3% of their Single Farm Payment, with the RPA unlikely to issue warning letters this year.”

More than 1281 farms had holding register discrepancies and 2459 holdings failed to notify births, deaths or movements last year and breaches in these two areas are increasing. And one area farmers could be falling foul is where holdings are linked, said Mr Draper.

“Linked holdings are key particularly where people are grazing livestock on other people’s land, so they remain the keeper. However, it’s easy to forget links are only valid for a year and because the reminder occurs at the time when the link is initially set-up and not when it is due to end it is vital farmers make a note when links need to be renewed,” Mr Draper advised.

Making sure records are up to date is also important since an inspection could be called at any time, by which time planning to do anything could be too late. “An inspection essentially starts as soon as the phone call has been made asking for inspection. Once you are selected for inspection things can be changed, but it will not make a difference at the inspection since they will already have records from when the inspection was initiated.”

And one way farmers can keep on top of records is to request a quarterly statement from BCMS, said James Kirkbride, BCMS. “A quarterly statement doesn’t cost anything and will allow farmers to keep on top of cattle records. It’s important to remember BCMS do not issue any penalties at all, our aim is simply to get the CTS database as accurate as possible.”

And being open when there are problems is essential since this year there is unlikely to be any leeway for human error. “When you have old passports send them back and make sure when you take over keepership of an animal the animal is properly identified and passports and tags match up. When there are problems, in any instance, phone the BCMS helpline and ensure you keep hold of the reference number,” said Mr Kirkbride.

It’s also important farmers realise all records must be kept for a minimum of 10 years. “Even when someone has ceased farming for whatever reason all cattle identification records must be kept.”

Cattle ID records: Q&A

1. I keep and report all my movements via the computer, if I have connection problems, lose data or unable to log on to my computer, how can I report any movements or update my records within the time scale?

In incidences where are records are lost contact BCMS who will issue a reference number and will also be able to send out a print out of records. For those using CTS, BCMS recommend keeping a paper back up or backing up information on a USB flash drive.

2. I make a mistake reporting a death/movement to BCMS and have sent the wrong passport/movement details in to BCMS and have filled in my records incorrectly, how do I correct this?

In the first instance contact BCMS to obtain a reference number. And even when using CTS online, BCMS recommend phoning the helpline.

3. I have suffered a burglary/fire and my records and passports have been stolen/lost. What do I need to do?

When records have been stolen a crime number must be obtained from the police. Secondly contact BCMS to inform them all records have been stolen or destroyed and they will issue you with a reference number which will cover your back in case of inspection. BCMS can then replace records.

4. How long do I need to keep my records for?

10 years irrespective whether you are still farming.

5. When ordering replacement tags, what records and what evidence should I keep to show that I have done this?

In cases when replacement tags have not shown up, contact the tag manufacturer and also inform BCMS and obtain a reference number.

6. When I have linked holdings or two holding numbers should I show this in my records and how best to do so?

When you have linked holdings, records can be kept in one book but it is probably easiest to keep separate books for each holding.

7. When an animal has died and gone to the knacker’s yard, how can I make sure the death is reported within the timescale if the passport has to go with the animal?

When an animal goes to the knacker’s yard the passport does not go with the animal. Keep the passport and send to BCMS and give the movement card to the knacker’s yard. Deaths can now be reported online, but the passport must still be sent back to BCMS.

8. One of my animals has been lost/stolen what steps should I take in reporting the matter to BCMS?

Get a crime number from the police when an animal has been stolen. Contact BCMS and inform them of the situation and provide them with the crime number. When an animal has been lost, you will be asked to return the passport and the animal will be removed from the herd. When that animal returns the passport will be reissued.

9. What is the procedure in terms of record keeping for a still born calf?

All births and deaths must be recorded. When a calf dies one hour after birth, officially the calf would need to be tagged and then recorded as being alive and dead on the same day. If the animal is born dead it is just recorded as dead.

10. In terms of record keeping how strict is the 36 hour rule. For instance if I use a notebook over the weekend and then update my main records on a Monday, is this acceptable?

Update records on a daily basis. When keeping births and deaths in a notebook, just take care not to lose the notebook.

11. What information do I keep in my records and what’s the best way to do this?

Keep up-to-date on-farm records of births, deaths and movements on and off holdings (including dates). For movements, record details of where cattle came from and moved to. This must contain official eartag number, dams official eartag, sex, dates, breed, details of addresses of where animals have moved to and from.

Although everyone has their own recording system a relatively new BCMS herd register could help consolidate information help since it also counts as a movement book.

12. I have found a number of passports on my holding for animals that I no longer have or have any knowledge of, what should I do? Will I be penalised if I return to BCMS?

BCMS do not issue penalties at all; they just want the CTS database as accurate as possible. All old passports should be sent back so cattle can be removed from the database.

If passports have been lost, contact BCMS to get a passport reissued. The price for a replacement passport is now £20.

13. I have bought an animal and upon returning to my holding I notice the breed/sex/eartag are different on the passport to the animal, what’s the best way to resolve this?

Ring BCMS, send the passport back and they will amend. There is no charge for amendments.

When incorrect dates have been used on movements cards, either use another card from passport or use Tipp-Ex. Do not cross out and put in new date and sign as this may not be picked up by BCMS computer. In the holding register, however, the opposite is true – Tipp-Ex should not be used here.