MAFF offers amnesty on single tag cattle sales
By Jonathan Riley
RESPONDING to the serious backlog in cattle tag manufacturing, MAFF has said it will not prosecute any producers who, for genuine reasons, have to sell cattle carrying only a single eartag.
Although EU double tagging legislation came into effect on Jan 1, producers have been allowed to market cattle on a single tag since then because MAFF will not been empowered to prosecute them until the directive is approved by parliament later this month.
But, with farmers suffering a delay of at least six-weeks between ordering their tags and receiving them, MAFF has pledged not to prosecute anyone who had a genuine difficulty in getting tags, even after the legislation has passed through parliament.
Incidents would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, an official said. But, he added, cattle for slaughter should have at least one tag, plus a passport.
But John Waine, director of Wilts-based calf group Mid West Calves, warned producers buying calves with only one tag to consider the long term implications.
"Buyers will be responsible for chasing up secondary tags and could be liable for any penalties incurred in 18-months time when calves are marketed with only one tag.
"It is, therefore, vital that buyers find out whether tags have been applied for when buying calves, and that they gain some evidence of this," said Mr Waine.
Tag manufacturers have rejected claims that the growing backlog in processing tag orders is their fault. Bob Hattersley, chairman of the Approved Livestock Identification Manufacturers Association, said his members had been faced with a totally new set of requirements which were far more complex.
Manufacturers were working 16 hours a day, seven days a week, to clear backlogs, he added. "About 40% of tag orders include errors and MAFF simply rejects these orders. Its then left for the manufacturer to try and contact producers and sort out the problem before the order can be re-submitted to MAFF for checking against the database.
"Only then can we manufacture the number set requested, and this inevitably takes some time," said Mr Hattersley. He said the growing number of producers telephoning manufacturers to chase orders was adding to the pressure, and urged producers to wait for manufacturers to contact them.
"Their concern is understandable but it would help if they could wait until we contact them, to relieve some of the pressure on our switchboards and administrative staff."