Minister Creed Announces Further Details on the Extension of Electronic Identification (EID) To All Sheep

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., today announced further details on the extension of mandatory electronic identification to all sheep, as announced on 02 May 2018.

In that regard the Minister stated that “Since the announcement in May, my Department and I have engaged constructively with stakeholders in relation to the practical concerns raised in relation to the introduction of the new system. Having carefully considered the issues raised I am pleased to be in a position to now respond positively to these concerns, whilst still delivering on the benefits of extending electronic identification to the industry as a whole. The Minister said that the new requirements will now be introduced in two stages as follows:

With effect from 01 October 2018, all National Sheep Identification System (NSIS) approved tag suppliers will only sell two tag types:
a) single electronic slaughter tags (for animals less than 12 months for lambs moving directly from the farm of birth to slaughter), and

b) electronic tag sets (for all other sheep movements).

With effect from 01 June 2019 all sheep moving off a holding must be identified electronically, requiring either
a) a single electronic slaughter tag, where lambs less than 12 months of age are moved directly from the birth holding to a slaughter plant, or

b) an electronic tag set, in the case of all other sheep movements.

The Minister also announced that having listened to the concerns regarding costs associated with the transition from one system to the other, he has now decided, subject to the normal budgetary and State Aid approval procedures, on revised financial supports to assist in this transition process.

There will be a once-off payment of up to a maximum of €100 per farmer, which will be related to the purchase of electronic tags from 1 October 2018. This is double the previous proposed figure of €50 payment. In the context of simplification, sheep farmers will not need to make an application for this funding, as the Department is in a position to use its records to calculate the amount due to each farmer under the scheme.

The Minister went on to say that ‘One of the main concerns was the need for an appropriate transition period for farmers to use up already purchased stocks of tags, to simplify arrangements for store lamb fatteners who would have purchased lambs already tagged with the ‘old’ tags, and to enable marts and factories put in place the necessary infrastructure and systems – the staged implementation of the new requirements takes account of the varying concerns’.

The staged implementation will, in particular, allow all 2018 season lambs to exit the system prior to 1 June 2019 without having to be identified electronically and provides farmers with an extended opportunity to use up existing stocks of conventional tags prior to that date.

The Minister recalled that current national sheep identification system is widely acknowledged to be very complex, with an over reliance on the manual transcription of individual sheep identification numbers. He stated that “the extension of electronic identification will simplify the sheep tagging system, significantly reduce the record keeping requirements for sheep farmers moving sheep to livestock marts, slaughter plants and export assembly centres and provide a more accurate and robust sheep traceability system in support of animal health and public health objectives and thus support the further development and sustainability of the sheep industry.

This move to full EID will protect Ireland’s reputation as a source of safe and secure food and animals and will put Ireland’s sheep traceability system on a par with other major competitor exporting countries in maintaining and securing new international markets for Irish sheep meat.

The effectiveness of EID is enhanced by the participation of marts and slaughter plants in electronically capturing the identification number of sheep and providing a printout to the farmer for association with the dispatch docket. This facility enables farmers to record only the total number of sheep consigned on the dispatch docket rather than the 15 digit individual tag numbers – this saves time and improves accuracy.

Additionally the Minister also announced a subvention to marts of 40% of the verified development cost (subject to a maximum of €10,000) of the infrastructure necessary to enable them generate the printout of tag numbers for farmers in respect of sheep supplied.

He also re-confirmed that electronic tag readers and associated software are included as eligible investments in the Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) scheme to assist sheep farmers in flock management. He stressed however, that tag readers are not a requirement for the new sheep identification system.

Note for Editors
Up to now, all sheep are required to be identified electronically with a full EID tag set. However, an exception is made for lambs slaughtered before reaching the age of 12 months (regardless of the number of movements or interim destinations within the 12 months period), where such lambs may be identified with a single conventional tag. All animals have to be identified by 9 months of age.

Under the new arrangements all animals are still required to be identified at 9 months of age. With effect from 1 June 2019 all sheep sold after that date and consigned directly from farm of birth to a slaughter plant before 12 months of age can be identified with one electronic tag in the animal’s right ear, whilst after that date all animals, including lambs to be sold through marts or farm to farm etc. must comply with the full EID requirements – (1 conventional tag in the left ear and 1 electronic tag in the right ear). A bolus set comprising an electronic bolus in the stomach of the sheep and a corresponding conventional tag bearing the same number as the bolus may be used as an alternative to an EID tag set.

The staged implementation dates provide farmers also with an extended opportunity to use up existing stocks of conventional tags on lambs that will be slaughtered prior to 01 June 2019.

The maximum amount payable to each keeper in the announced once-off EID tag subsidy scheme is €100. The subsidy will apply to the first order for EID tags ordered by farmers after 01 October 2018.