The Ulster Farmers’ Union has confirmed that it has been in discussions with DAERA for some time over potential cattle identity problems.
Deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, said the UFU’s message throughout had been that DAERA needs to work with farmers to find speedy solutions to identity queries.
“We have made clear our concerns about the complicated procedures DAERA use to resolve identity queries. Often these are down to simple human error and are about the sex, colour or breed of the animal,” said Mr Chestnutt. He said DAERA’s rigid approach is overly bureaucratic, creating unnecessary frustration for farmers.
“When DAERA is unwilling to resolve identity queries, the movement of cattle is restricted. They can only go direct for slaughter. This is limiting farmers’ marketing options, potentially reducing the animal’s value while creating practical problems on the farm,” warned the UFU deputy president.
The UFU says it wants flexibility from DAERA. It believes this would allow the majority of identity queries to be resolved quickly on the farm, and without risk to the integrity of traceability.
“Farmers here keep detailed herd records and we have a world-leading traceability system that should allow for mistakes to be corrected. A common sense solution from DAERA could maintain the traceability of our cattle, while ensuring as many as possible secure their full value from the market,” said Mr Chestnutt.
In response a DAERA spokesperson said: “The integrity of the cattle tracing system in Northern Ireland is vital for reasons of food safety, trade and marketing.
“It is the responsibility of all cattle farmers to ensure that their animals are properly identified within the legal time frames following birth, that they are registered accurately and on time, and that traceability is maintained through the marketing process.
“DAERA takes its responsibilities to assist farmers in this work very seriously and has been considering if any changes can be made to the criteria for the application and removal of cattle statuses so that trade is facilitated without compromising animal traceability.”