Farmer Focus Livestock:EID a worry for Jolyon Higgs

Jolyon Higgs farms 130ha in Llanidloes, Mid Wales. His wife Alex helps at her parent’s 200ha arable and grassland farm on the Gower. Jolyon keeps 20 suckler cows, selling the stores to his wife’s farm. He keeps 600 ewes, producing prime lambs for Waitrose as well as light continental-type lambs.

At a recent NFU meeting a member stood up and told us Wales had lost its coal industry, was losing its steel industry and, if EID went ahead, it would be well on its way to losing the lamb industry.

Quite who is promoting this ridiculous idea of electronically tagging sheep is a mystery. We are told it has come from the EU and, therefore, cannot be challenged. But I think behind the scenes tag manufacturers are understandably pushing for its introduction and government advisers seem unable to see the burden they are placing on the industry.

Sheep farmers know how often they have to replace a conventional tag and the cost of this ill-conceived and impractical idea will become apparent all too soon.

At Cwmfron grass growth has been slow, with hard frosts at the end of April and cold wet weather mid-May not helping. Our daughter Laura, just back from a ski season in Austria, was kind enough to help us pitching and dosing lambs with Scabivax. Most cattle were out in early May.

In Gower, although in early May the weather was dry, the sprayer was only able to operate on one day in a fortnight because of a constant wind. The final nitrogen dressing has gone on to cereals, including the spring barley, which is being aimed at the malting market. Fodder beet has also emerged well.

We patrol both farms at this time of year to check for ewes stuck on their backs. The ravens in Llanidloes are always ready to attack a helpless sheep. Perhaps next year the electronic tag will send out a distress call so we can get to the casualty before the killers. Now that would be useful – and good for animal welfare.

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