Sheep EID failings laid before MP

THE shortcomings of sheep EID have been brought home to Wales MEP, Jill Evans, during a Farmers Union of Wales-organised visit to a Caernarfonshire farm.

At Gwern Farm, Saron, near Llanwnda, she heard how farmer Huw Jones and his family had worked diligently to make electronic identification technology work as one of 14 Welsh trial farms — but still experienced major problems.

“Using the technology and having to record and report each and every movement represents a great deal of extra work and costs, and we are finding a significant number of the tags are not being picked up by scanners,” said Mr Jones.

“That means us having to go through the sheep individually, read the tags manually and then write the numbers down. Doing that in horizontal rain and freezing cold weather means a great deal of extra work and a far higher risk of human error.

“It is extremely frustrating when you have bent over backwards to get the technology to work, but are still finding major problems which could lead to financial penalties.

“It feels sometimes as if the system has been set up in order to make it impossible for sheep farmers to avoid fines,” added Mr Jones.

“We are also experiencing numerous tag losses due to the requirement for double fencing imposed by various environmental schemes.

“How on earth can we be expected to achieve 100 per cent EID accuracy under such conditions?”

According to FUW president, Emyr Jones, the experience of Welsh farmers confirmed everything the industry had warned would happen.

“Disappointingly, the Welsh Government has now confirmed that it will not allow tolerances for tag read-rates, which means a higher risk of farmers being fined as a result of technological failures that are beyond their control,” he said.

“The legal requirement for farmers is 100 per cent EID accuracy but everyone accepts that EID technology cannot deliver 100 per cent accuracy. Something desperately needs to be done to change a situation which I believe is completely immoral.”

Responding Ms Evans said it gave her no satisfaction to see all the problems that had been predicted with EID occurring.

“It is simply unworkable. Farmers have made every effort to comply with the law but the fact is that it is impossible to tag and account for every single sheep in a flock.

“The electronic equipment available is not yet able to deliver a 100 per cent reliable result and I have seen how easy it is for tags to get lost. Yet, unless they comply 100 per cent, farmers will be penalised and is unacceptable.”

Readers' comments (3)

  • Was the non read problem the Reader or the tags? Did the Reader allow input manually if there is a non-read?
    It is no good making sweeping generalisations such "EID technology cannot deliver 100 per cent accuracy." This is not true. Some Readers can and the StockTrace one has other features.

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  • We use a stick reader and it works really well. The main problem is having to manually read those lambs with the batch tag. Those things have caused more problems than they have solved. Thanks NFU & FUW!


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  • If anyone is interested, I'd be happy to point you to (hundreds of) farmers who think the technology performs excellent. They've discovered the benefits of automation, enhanced information for improving their business. There's nothing wrong with the technology itself. Yes, there are a few bad products out there. But the most important factor is that people need to learn how to use it.

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