Sheep double tagging fears eased by DEFRA

DEFRA has reassured the industry that it will only seek to implement the basic requirements of the EU sheep double tagging directive after efforts to extend the current derogation failed.


Initially farmers’ groups had feared DEFRA might attempt to gold-plate the legislation (News, 8 June).  In its basic form the regulation only requires the double tagging of breeding sheep before nine months of age or before the first sheep leaves its holding of birth, whichever is sooner.


Last week DEFRA presented the industry with two options: either double tagging or sheep electronic identification (EID) from 2009.  Industry groups from the NFU to the National Sheep Association to the Livestock Auctioneers Association were unanimous in their support for Option 1 – the requirement to double tag from January next year.


Breeding animals will require double tags although no direct reference to the flock numbers or individual numbers will need to be recorded on the movement document.  Instead, farmers will only be required to record the holding from which the sheep are moving from and the holding in which they are moving to, together with the total number of sheep.


The S-tag system has also been dropped.  NFU livestock board chairman Thomas Binns said: “Our officeholders and I have met the commission almost weekly since the start of June to persuade the commission that the original proposals to roll out double tagging would have crippled the British sheep sector.”


“We had always privately recognised that extending the derogation was going to be difficult and that the final decision was ultimately out of the control of our government. However, our firm stance in Brussels and Whitehall has paid dividends for sheep producers in Britain when DEFRA conceded not to gold plate the EU rules.”


LAA secretary Chris Dodds welcomed the support for Option 1, but felt the industry could have presented a unanimous stance earlier.


“We felt the compromise on offer was very satisfactory and that pursuing the derogation once it became apparent we had lost it could jeopardise any future negotiations we might have with the commission.”

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