NFU Scotland has told the Scottish Executive that new rules regarding the tagging of sheep and recording of movements must deliver clear animal health benefits. NFUS has made its comments in response to an Executive consultation on new rules likely to come into effect in mid-November. NFUS has two particular concerns over the proposals which it believes would add cost and red tape for no animal health benefit.
An EU Regulation came into force on 9 July 2005 requiring all sheep born after that date to be tagged by nine months of age, or earlier if they are moved. NFUS accepts that as the way forward, however has concerns over the Executive's proposal for retrospective tagging. It proposes that all sheep in Scotland are tagged by 31 December 2005 even if they haven't moved off their holding of birth. NFUS recognises that all sheep will eventually move and will therefore need tagging, however questions the sense in rounding up these sheep in the country in the next three months for tagging when it may be many years before these animals move off their holding of birth. The second concern is the proposal that every farm holding must have a separate set of movement records. NFUS believes that this is only necessary where sheep are kept as separate flocks on different holdings.
In July, the Scottish Executive succeeded in securing a crucial derogation from the EU Regulation which would have required all Scottish sheep to be double tagged and their individual numbers recorded every time they move; a practical nightmare that carried an estimated cost of £20 million. However, the Regulation still requires some changes to Scottish regulations, which are the subject of this current consultation.
NFUS Vice President Bob Howat said:
“Averting the threat of double tagging and individual recording has been a huge relief. However, the Executive still has to make changes to the rules to implement other aspects of the Regulation. But, in doing so, it must be absolutely certain it is not adding extra cost for no benefit.
“The proposal to back-tag sheep in the next 12 weeks is completely unnecessary. The disease traceability issue that is the driver for the EU Regulation regards animal movements. There will be hundreds of thousands of sheep that won't move off their holding of birth for years, so rushing to bring them all in and get them tagged by the end of the year will be a practical nightmare, costly and deliver no animal health benefit.
“The issue of paperwork in these proposals must also be looked at. I run two farms and have two completely separate flocks. I therefore completely understand why the Executive wants me to have two sets of movement records. However, we have many members that will have three or four holdings, but one flock is run across them all. As these flocks are one unit as far as disease control is concerned, in these kinds of cases, there is no sense in having duplicate paperwork at three or four sites when one set will do the job.
“The Executive and industry have worked closely and successfully on sheep ID rules so far. As long as that continues, we should be able to work through these concerns.”