What is the legal stance on compulsory EID?
EU regulations state EID must be introduced for all animals born on or after 31 December 2009. This date was fixed in December 2007. Hilary Benn met Commissioner Vassiliou on 29 September to express UK concerns about the costs and burdens EID will impose on the industry, but the commission has made it clear there is no prospect of reviewing requirements in the near future.
Does the stance Germany and Holland have recently taken on the issue alongside the UK change anything?
Unlikely. The Dutch and German industries have only recently started to work closely with the UK in expressing concerns about EID. DEFRA has not been made aware that the government position in Germany or Netherlands has changed.
Will there be a list of DEFRA-approved EID system suppliers?
DEFRA is working towards developing a system that will provide for the use of EID equipment (devices and readers) which has been certified to meet EU requirements (ICAR, ISO and technical guidelines). It is hoped to have an agreed process available early next year.
Will DEFRA be looking at the Scottish EID trial to address any of the issues being raised by farmers?
The department is working closely with Scotland on EID. DEFRA will have access to the emerging trial results and will be taking them into account where appropriate and where regulatory framework permits.
Who is responsible for recording all the information? Is it correct that DEFRA has no plans to hold a national database? If so, how will it be policed?
EU regulations require each member state to hold a central database which records batch information of all sheep and goat movements. DEFRA has had a system in place since 2002. The regulation does not require the database to include individual animal numbers and DEFRA has no plans to extend the system to cater for this.
As well as electronically tagging animals, must farmers also have the ability to read those electronic tags – and invest in a computerised data-logger?
No. The only mandatory requirement is the application of EID devices (tags or boluses) from 31 December 2009. The regulation also requires individual recording from various transitional dates, but does not prescribe that this has to be achieved through electronic means.
The visual number appearing on the outer casing of the electronic eartag and on the conventional ear-tag will be the same as that encoded on the EID device and, therefore, the recording requirement can be met by writing down the visual number manually. It will be for the keeper to decide whether the scale of his operation requires the purchase of electronic equipment.
What tags/boluses are available?
Two types of microchip are used for EID tags and boluses – Full Duplex (FDX-B) and Half Duplex (HDX). Although different, they effectively do the same job. But not all readers will be able to register both. When looking for readers, check they are fully ISO-compliant – these will handle both technologies.
Fold-over or 30mm yellow button-tags with various printing options.
Price: FDX-B – 75p, HDX – 85p
RD2000 – golf tee-style tags can be fitted with microchips.
Price: FDX-B – 95p
A cheaper fold-over flag tag will be available next year.
Can be used as a visual identification and, when fitted with an optional electronic chip, a low-cost method of electronically identifying sheep.
Price: FDX-B – 65p or HDX – 75p each.
Ceramic electronic identification boluses are available for cattle and sheep. Single ear-tag must indicate bolus is used.
20g bolus for sheep £1.20 (applicator £26).
Under development, LTS’s EID system will be launched in early 2009. Pairs of fold-over tags – one with an integrated microchip and one without – will sell for 65p.
Fold-over and 28mm button tags – FDX-B and HDX – about £1 each.
What readers are available?
Basic stick reader will record individual animal EIDs for later download to the farm computer via cable or Bluetooth.
The Anilog 3050 is a reader and data-logger. Incorporating a numeric keypad, it allows input of various actions, such as birth weights, health tests, condition scoring and drug dosing. It holds up to 9000 animal records and up to 255 actions. ISO-compliant, it will read both HDX and FDX-B tags and can withstand drops from 1m on to concrete.
Panel readers for use in races, markets and abattoir lairages.
Price: from £750
Ritchey is evaluating a range of simple readers and more complex data-loggers to add as recommended units to its price list.
The stick reader is a simple reading device, allowing up to 3000 tags to be stored for uploading into management software later. The reader has a display that shows the EID number just read and keeps a count of the total number.
Allows a Bluetooth device (£99) to be fitted for real-time data transfer up to a distance of 100m (terrain dependent)
The Allflex panel reader is claimed to be built to withstand the hazards of typical livestock operations.
Price: From £350
SDL400S stick reader
Reads both FDX-B and HDX tags and boluses within 30cm (12in) range.
The EID number can be sent directly to a hand-held or desktop computer using Bluetooth wireless connection or up to 10,000 animal records can be stored internally for download to a PC.
The SDL400S has built-in memory, so it can be used to create management groups by reading and storing the EID of all animals in a group. These groups can then have “movements” or “treatments” recorded for them as a block using Shearwell’s FarmWorks software.
Gesreader 1 Handheld
Simple reader displays EID numbers from FDX-B and HDX tags and boluses within 25cm range (10in).
Shearwell sells a range of hand-held computers with integrated data-logging that can record information for later download to a PC. The most basic version reads and records EID numbers. Top-spec versions log individual traits from parentage and weight gain to medical treatments and movement history.
Static tag and bolus readers can be integrated into races and weighers for instant animal recognition. Used with large flocks and in abattoirs.
GES II reader
Simple-to-operate hand-held reader exchanges data directly with farm office computer via Border Software’s FarmIT 3000 programme.
Reading range: 25cm with HDX chips and 20cm with FDX-B
This range of waterproof hand-held readers starts with a basic model and moves up to more sophisticated options allowing in-field data input and will communicate with a PC or mobile phone via Bluetooth.
Reading range: 25cm with HDX chips and 18cm with FDX-B
Price: From £450
When fitted to a weight crate and linked to electronic weigh cells by computer, EID panel readers can automatically identify animals and record their weights. It is recommended to have one panel reader on either side of the race.
Price: From £1500
LTS offers a selection of EasyTrakka hand-held readers and Gallagher race readers. The company is developing a PDA-based system that can record and recall information such as births, deaths and medical treatments. GPRS technology means exact movement locations are automatically logged.
Prices: from £49.99 a month for hand-helds (three-year contract including £10 a month of mobile airtime), from £500 for race readers (50cm read range).
What software is available?
The key to any EID system is the ability to transfer data easily between the reader and computer, so good software is crucial.
Anidata ES is compatible with Tagmaster’s (previously Allflex’s) range of readers. It allows comprehensive reporting on management information, birth registration and movements from reading the tag.
Anidata ES can hold multiple holdings of cattle and sheep and both can work alongside each other, removing the need to buy two separate packages.
Shearwell’s FarmWorks management software is designed for livestock producers, auction markets and abattoirs. As slaughtermen butcher animals, the specific carcass grade and weight can be logged onto individuals’ records. Abattoirs can make this information available to producers, who can then look at an animal’s history to work out which genetic lines, treatments or feeding regimes produce the best-quality carcasses and generate the best profit margins.
Price: £480 (free with hand-held data-loggers)
Due to undergo evaluation early next year, LTS’s software is web-based, so information is downloaded on to the PC and stored on one of LTS’s servers. This means that should anything go wrong with the computer, information is not lost.
Prices are yet to be finalised.
FarmIT 3000 deals with a wide range of individual animal, group or whole-flock information, including movement records, vet and medical records, feed records, breeding records, weight records, particular genetic traits, EID, field maps, fertiliser, cropping and grazing records.
Prices: from £299.
Benefits of EID
- Ease of record-keeping
- Food-chain traceability
- Accuracy and reliability of records
- Management and analysis of genetic lines
- Abattoir feedback to improve carcass quality
- Labour savings
Case study: David Eglin, Bulkington, Warwickshire
Benefits for both commercial and pedigree flocks
Having used computerised flock recording for the past five years and electronic identification since 2005, David Eglin is well aware of the potential pitfalls of EID, but is still a strong believer in the advantages it can bring.
With a commercial flock of 200 pedigree Dorsets and 100 Chamois, his viewpoint is a balanced one.
“I’m not convinced EID should be made compulsory and it isn’t necessarily right for everybody,” he says. “However, it has brought big benefits to both our commercial operation and our pedigree lines.”
Mr Eglin points out that EID has obvious advantages for pedigree breeders, giving them the opportunity to track individual animals’ genetic lines and specific traits.
“It makes life easy for us. When a customer comes to us looking for a particular genetic trait, we can check out family histories to make sure we get the right type of animal.
“But we do the same thing with our commercial flock. For example, we can look at how well different crosses finish on different feeding regimes and compare their performance right through to slaughter.”
But it is this final stage that frustrates Mr Eglin. Few slaughterhouses are equipped with electronic identification equipment and even those that are often see it as a hassle.
“Using EID right through the food chain would be fantastic for abattoirs,” he says. “Supermarkets would see complete traceability and if post-slaughter information was passed back to farmers we could start to produce animals of the exact specification they’re after.
“Having an individual’s killing-out percentages, fatness and conformation grades would allow me to look back at that animal’s history and decide whether its genetic line should be used again and, if so, whether its feeding regime and management should be different.”
Other key EID advantages for the Bramcote Mains flocks include ease of record-keeping – movements and medical records are all accessible in the field and at the computer. There are even automatic reminders, with slaughter intervals for individual animals receiving some form of treatment. This is useful for assurance schemes and Trading Standards inspections.
Automating record-keeping has also reduced the labour burden. At lambing, records are input instantly with no need to go back and enter anything in the flock book. Similarly, sorting animals and tag-reading without human error, greatly improves the level of accuracy, says Mr Eglin. That advantage becomes even more distinct when you add automated weighing to the mix.