Farmer charged over lost ear-tag

Cumbria dairy farmer Robert Emerson will be sentenced later this month after being convicted by Penrith magistrates of four charges under the 1968 Trade Description Act involving burying an unidentified cow on his farm.

Mr Emerson claims to have been following DEFRA instructions.

The exhumation of a Holstein cow at Mr Emerson’s Pembroke House Farm, Brougham, near Penrith was undertaken last summer by Trading Standards officials following the discovery that two cows in the herd were carrying the same ear-tag number.

This is the first time a cow has been exhumed in the county under the new powers of Trading Standards.

When one of his cows lost an ear-tag, Mr Emerson said he had inadvertently replaced it with the tag number of a cow already in the herd.

One of the cows was culled, but when the second cow was also ready to be taken out of the herd Mr Emerson realised his error.

“I couldn’t get anyone to remove the cow from the farm dead or alive because it didn’t have a passport,” said Mr Emerson.
“Following a phone call to DEFRA I was told to have the cow put down and to bury her on the farm.

But I didn’t get that instruction in writing and it has led to all of this,” he added.

He said farmers were unsure about what to do if a cow lost a tag without it appearing to be suspicious.

“Older cows in the herd stand a greater risk of losing an ear tag.

What’s happened to me highlights the problems farmers face,” he said.

A DEFRA spokesman said the advice Mr Emerson claimed to have been given was not in line with official policy on what to do when a cow lost a tag.

“We expect cows to lose tags, but farmers should notify the manufacturer of the tag so that its loss can be registered on the national database.

This means there is no confusion over the animal’s identity during the time a new tag is made and issued.”

To contact Jeremy Hunt e-mail: or telephone: 01282 611 015