Scottish solution proposed for EU sheep rules

28
703

By a Newsnet reporter

The EU’s insistence that every sheep kept by a farmer will have to have to be ear tagged with expensive electronic micro-chips is being called into question once again by Scottish farming chiefs.

NFU Scotland is in Brussels today (Thursday, 29 March) to urge Commission officials to speed up their review of the controversial sheep Electronic Identification regulations. The NFUS is proposing rule changes that would only require sheep to be double tagged electronically when they leave the holding of birth.

By a Newsnet reporter

The EU’s insistence that every sheep kept by a farmer will have to have to be ear tagged with expensive electronic micro-chips is being called into question once again by Scottish farming chiefs.

NFU Scotland is in Brussels today (Thursday, 29 March) to urge Commission officials to speed up their review of the controversial sheep Electronic Identification regulations. The NFUS is proposing rule changes that would only require sheep to be double tagged electronically when they leave the holding of birth.

Electronic tagging of sheep was brought in across Europe with the aim of ensuring food traceability. However, in Scotland where we have extensive sheep grazing free-range across vast swathes of hillside, many of the rules have been deemed as unnecessary, unworkable and uneconomic.

The Scottish Government has worked hard to ensure that Scottish Farmers have had as much support as possible with the implementation of the regulations. Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead has ensured Scotland has been to the fore with pilot schemes and research into how the EU demands can best be met.

The Scottish Government received the praise of sheep farmers when concessions were won that meant that sheep would only have to be tagged on leaving their holding of birth, moving to another farm or entering the food-chain. This was seen as a welcome compromise which would meet the food traceability aims whilst not drowning farmers in paper-work and costs. However these concessions only apply to animals below 9 months of age, with all other sheep requiring to be expensively double ear tagged with electronic chips just to graze their own fields.

Scottish sheep farmers argue that double electronic tagging sheep over 9 months of age “at home” is costly and unreliable due to the fact that many tags are lost.

The Scottish proposals, being heard in Brussels today, could potentially save farmers thousands of pounds.

Commenting ahead of the talks, NFU Scotland’s President Nigel Miller said”For Scottish sheep keepers, we need to move requirements away from filling out paperwork and the flock register to simply focus on tagging standards at movement and then properly recording those movements of sheep.  

“We hope to encourage officials to move the review process for the sheep EID regulation on so we can also look at having our long-standing Scottish option of only electronically double tagging homebred ewes when they leave farm adopted.”  

“These are things that can further enhance traceability rather than the perception that the opposite would be achieved.”