Farmers are getting hit with a big bill for poor ear tags.
Analysis by the Ulster Farmers’ Union puts the figure at £700,000 plus a year, because replacements have to be bought when tags are lost.
UFU president, Barclay Bell, says this is down to the poor quality and durability of identification tags currently approved for Northern Ireland.
“There is a solution. The Union has urged DAERA to review its policy and to allow a single metal tag as an approved secondary identification. Metal tags are more robust and durable. This option is already available in Great Britain under DEFRA. We believe this could halve the number of tags lost,” he explained.
The UFU says continuing with poor quality tags is unacceptable and describes what it is suggesting as a win-win outcome for farmers and DAERA.
“Farmers would get a durable tag that cuts the cost and frustration of missing tags, while DAERA would secure improved traceability. This would benefit everyone in the beef industry. It’s a simple policy change for DAERA. There’s no need to change legislation. If the will is there it could be done quickly and without major complications. There is no reason for that not to happen,” says the UFU president.
“For ten years farmers have voiced their concerns about poor tags and the cost of replacements. We understand the importance of tags and traceability. That goes without saying. This is not about tagging in the first place, but about the frustration and cost of routinely having to replace poor quality tags.
“Our analysis only covers the price of tags - it doesn’t account for time spent rounding up and checking animals, ordering tags and re-tagging. That means the real cost is far higher.” said Mr Bell.