Northern Ireland’s cattle identification system is overly bureaucratic when it comes to correcting simple errors and farmers are paying the price, the Ulster Farmers’ Union has claimed.
Victor Chestnutt, deputy president at the UFU, said that simple mistakes about the sex, breed or colour of an animal were being dealt with in a rigid way by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera).
Such queries could be resolved simply without compromising the integrity of the system.
“When Daera is unwilling to resolve identity queries, the movement of cattle is restricted,” he said.
“They can only go direct for slaughter. This is limiting farmers’ marketing options – potentially reducing the animal’s value, while creating practical problems on the farm.”
Mr Chestnutt said farmers kept detailed herd records and had a world-leading traceability system that should allow for mistakes to be corrected.
“A common sense solution from Daera could maintain the traceability of our cattle, while ensuring as many as possible secure their full value from the market,” he added.
But a Daera spokesman said the integrity of the cattle tracing system in Northern Ireland was vital for reasons of food safety, trade and marketing.
“It is the responsibility of all cattle farmers to ensure that their animals are properly identified within the legal time frames following birth, that they are registered accurately and on time, and that traceability is maintained through the marketing process,” he said.
But, he added that Daera was reviewing the process: “Daera takes its responsibilities to assist farmers in this work very seriously and has been considering if any changes can be made to the criteria for the application and removal of cattle statuses so that trade is facilitated without compromising animal traceability.”