In a u-turn DAERA has said it will still accept paper notifications for calf registrations in Northern Ireland.
However at the same time the department will continue to ‘robustly promote the clear benefits of online and telephony notifications’.
Ulster Farmers’ Union president, Barclay Bell has welcomed DAERA’s announcement.
The UFU met with DAERA at the beginning of February to discuss their proposals for the phased withdrawal of paper registrations and movement documents for livestock.
Mr Bell added: “With almost 30% of cattle registrations still currently completed on paper, the DAERA target to move all of those paper based farmers to an alternative service by May 2018 or even May 2019 was a far too ambitious target. At this meeting and in a subsequent letter to DAERA, the UFU highlighted that with the widely acknowledged difficulties in rural areas to access to broadband and with an ageing population of farmers in Northern Ireland, many of whom who are not computer literate, paper is still the main option. Farmers must be confident when registering calves given the serious risks that surround inaccurate traceability information with livestock.”
The UFU says it is aware of the ongoing pressures on public sector finances which has resulted in a considerable reduction in DAERA’s staffing complement over the past few years and say there are signs that these pressures will continue for years to come.
Mr Bell added: “While paper notifications will continue to be accepted, the UFU will continue to support the DAERA campaign for those farmers who wish to move from paper notifications to the online and telephony options.”
The UFU are in the process of planning a visit to the DAERA Enniskillen office to view the telephony system in operation.