EID surgery - your questions answered

REGULATIONS on sheep EID come into force on January 1 2010 and with many farmers still confused over what they have to do to comply, we will be putting your questions to the experts to find out the answers.

If you have a question on EID you can post it in our forums or email email your question to joanne.pugh@ubm.com and we will post the answers here and on the forums.

The following questions were asked at a series of meetings held by the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA) and the National Sheep Association (NSA) at Ludlow and Bakewell.

Answers given are by NSA chief executive Peter Morris unless otherwise stated.

What type of tags can be used?

Manufacturers are adapting existing tags to accommodate a microchip, and this can be done without hugely changing the appearance of the tag. But every electronic tags is yellow, be it one of the two tags in a double-tagged ewe or a single electronic slaughter tag for lambs.

When can I buy electronic tags?

A few have already been approved and a lot more will follow quickly. Take time to have a look at what is available.

What will the cost of the EID tags be?

The cost of an ordinary tag plus about 50p. If you are quoted more than this, shop around.

Will EID tags require a different applicator?

It is unlikely, because tag design does not need to change much. If there is a big change new applicators will probably be given away with large purchases of tags.

Are there restrictions on the colour of the second, non-electronic tag in breeding stock?

A: Any colour can be used apart from yellow (only electronic tags will be yellow), red (replacement tags) and black (indicates sheep with an electronic bolus).

Can I use up my old stocks of tags?

No. Old tags can not be used on breeding stock tagged after January 1, 2010, as the new system of numbering has an addition zero in the animal’s identity number: UK + 0 + flock number + individual number. Old tags can be used when breeding animals tagged before January 1, 2010 lose tags.

Can I use a bolus instead?

Yes, for breeding animals a bolus can be administered as the electronic form of identification, and the second, non-electronic form of identification must be a black eartag.

A drawback with boluses is that if the black tag is lost a reader will be required to find the identity of the animal in order to replace the tag. Two black tags could be put in, to reduce the risk of this happening, but this would increase the cost.

Why can’t microchips under the skin be used?

Because trials have shown that these are likely to move and could be considered a public health risk. There is the possibility of using them in the future.

What if a double-tagged sheep looses one of its tags?

There are two options in this situation:-

  1. Order an identical replacement tag, like you would for cattle.
  2. Cut out the remaining tag and replace it with two news ones, which must be red if the animal is no longer on its holding of birth. Make a note in the flock register cross-referencing the number on the old tag to the number on the news tags.

What if a sheep loses both its tags?

Insert a new set of tags and write in the flock record book ‘identity not known’ and the new tag number. If the ewe is older you have the option of replacing with old style tags (if you are sure she was born before January 1, 2010) or moving her onto the electronic system.

How long do I have to replace lost tags?

The regulation states 28 days from discovering the loss. Therefore, do not gather sheep especially to check eartags, only gather them just before sale or on the day of an inspection.

Keep a supply of red replacement tags on the farm, as lost tags can then be replaced there and then, rather than sheep having to be re-gathered. It is perfectly legitimate to replace tags in front of the inspector, as he will see you have only just discovered the loss and are well within the 28-day timeframe.

Red tags can be part of the farm’s sequential numbering pattern: when you order 100 tags ask for five sets to be red.

What about pedigree sheep where breed societies have specific tags with their own information on?

To start with you will have to have these tags as well, so some sheep could end up with four tags. But it is likely breed societies will come up with ways of adapting their systems. Consult your own breed society about their requirements.

Will I need a reader?

Concessions have been granted so the vast majority of sheep farmers will not need a reader. Abattoirs and markets will act as Central Point Recoding (CPR) centers, and it is thought some farms will seek approval as CPR centers too.

When small numbers of sheep are moved without going via a CPR centre – a private sale, for example – numbers can be recorded manually by writing down the animal’s eartag number. But a reader would be required for large numbers.

How do I record movements to temporary grazing?

Movements within five miles to premises with the same holding number when the owner/keeper is the same requires no recording. Movements between different CPHs when owner/keeper is the same requires batch recording. Only movement between different CPHs when the owner/keeper is different requires individual recording.

What about shows?

Individual recording will be required, but this can be done manually.

Could I go out and buy a reader if I wanted?

If you want to use EID for management purposes as well as individual identification you may chose to buy a reader – but there is no legal requirement to own one.

Do all readers read all tags?

As long as you buy a reader that meets ISO standards you will not have a problem.

Will there be a charge for reading tags at markets and other Central Point Recoding centers?

No auctioneer or abattoir owner has said customers will be charged a direct fee to have their tags read.

Alastair Sneddon (speaking at Bakewell) said he had no plans to charge, but if the service was offered to individual farmers in other circumstances – such as private sales – then there would be a need to charge.

John Uffold (speaking at Ludlow) also suggested markets could expand their services by having field officers with readers, and this would be chargeable.

And while there would be no charge for reading tags when the sheep were at market, he did urge farmers to invest in technology too, so markets could email them lists of eartag numbers, making the process cheaper and quicker.

Will markets refuse to take lambs unless they are electronically tagged?

It is possible some auctioneers will insist on lambs carrying electronic slaughter tags, and Mr Uffold said he would certainly prefer lambs to have electronic tags. However, he was not going to turn away 2,000 lambs if they were not tagged.

There are red markets and green markets at Ludlow. Mr Uffold said not all lambs at a red market would need to be electronically tagged but he would encourage all lambs at a green market to have an electronic slaughter tag, as he did not think store buyers would bid on those lambs otherwise, which would have a huge impact on prices.

Why is there still the option to have non-electronic tags; why are electronic slaughter tags not compulsory in all non-breeding lambs?

Because a lot of lambs go direct to slaughter and there is no point wasting an extra 50p on tagging them. But if too many people switch to selling deadweight, as a way to avoid electronic tagging, prices will fall because the deadweight price is influenced by the SQQ.

Why can’t I tag my lambs with a 10p tag and let the person who buys them deal with it?

You need to think very carefully about who might buy your lambs. If they are going direct to slaughter or from the market straight to an abattoir, a 10p tag is fine.

If someone buys them for additional fattening and mixes them with lambs from other places they will not be able to move them on again without recording all the different flock numbers, which will be impossible without EID. They can cut out the 10p tag and replace it with an electronic slaughter tag but are more likely to avoid buying anything without an electronic tag in the first place.

If someone thinks your lambs would make good breeding stock they cannot buy them, because it is possible to upgrade from a 10p tag to an electronic slaughter tag but not from a 10p tag to full EID.

How do I upgrade from an electronic slaughter tag to full EID?

This is one of the few scenarios when a reader will be needed, as an animal’s individual ID is stored inside an electronic slaughter tag and not on the outside. That number needs to be recorded in the flock record book and cross-referenced to the number on the two new tags. The replacement tags need to be red if the animal is no longer on the holding of birth.

If a mistake is made at a CPR centre will the farmer be punished for not meeting the regulations?

No, because a ‘principle of tolerance’ has been agreed. For example, if you take 100 lambs to a CPR centre and only get 98 eartag numbers back it is alright as long as you have the paperwork showing you took 100 lambs.

But this is a principle of tolerance and not a percentage of tolerance, so no figure has been set to how many missed eartag numbers is acceptable. The Government will be monitoring CPR and this issue.

The principle of tolerance has only been agreed for CPR centres, meaning farmers reading tags themselves, either with a reader or by writing down numbers, must be 100 per cent accurate.

If I buy 100 ewes from market and only get 98 eartag numbers do I have to go through the mob to find the two missing numbers?

No, because you will have the paperwork saying you bought 100 animals. However, if you want to sell them on without going via a CPR centre – i.e. a private sale – you will need all 100 numbers.

If I have my own reader and provide the market with a list of the animals I’m bringing for sale will they accept it?

John Uffold said it would depend on the market but most would probably prefer to do it themselves because, as a CPR centre, would be subject to scrutiny and audits.

If there is a power cut at a CPR centre will sales that day have to be cancelled?

No, because the centre can advise the authorities of the problem and work that day on batch movements only.

How likely am I to be inspected?

Trading Standards tends to operate in abattoirs and markets, rather than on-farm. The RPA is obliged to inspect 3 per cent of holdings a year, which should mean an inspection once every 30 years.

Inspection will involve random animals having their electronic ID read and the farmer being asked to find that animal in his flock register. This is far preferable to the inspector picking an identification number from the flock book and asking to see that animal, which was suggested by the authorities at one time.

Can I continue to sell ewes with lambs at foot?

These will be the first animals to be caught up in the new regulations. The ewes will just be a batch movement, as they are on the old system, but you will have to think carefully about where the lambs are destined and tag them accordingly. Perhaps you will decide whether to tag lambs with an electronic slaughter tag and females with full EID.

When will breeding animals born before January 1, 2010 come under the EID regulations?

Hopefully never. The provisional date for retrospective tagging is January 1, 2012, but pressure will continue to be applied at Brussels to prevent this becoming a requirement.

More information

For more information on sheep EID visit our information page for the latest news, advice and guidance on the new regulations.

Readers' comments (2)

  • You say we cant use old tags, but then say we can use old tags, which is right?

    Can I use up my old stocks of tags?
    No. Old tags can be used on breeding stock tagged after January 1, 2010, as the new system of numbering has an addition zero in the animal’s identity number: UK + 0 + flock number + individual number. Old tags can be used when breeding animals tagged before January 1, 2010 lose tags.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Yes, our error there. Apologies, that should read 'Old tags can not be used on breeding stock tagged after January 1, 2010...'

  • do auctions have to read eid tags some auctions dont why

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