NOVEMBER 27, 2010: The National Sheep Association is emphasising to its members that it is very important to ensure that the EID tags they buy to comply with next year’s new regulations are competitively priced as well as being suited to the sheep and the conditions under which they are managed.

With the vast majority of farmers not now needing electronic tag readers or computer software in order to comply with the regulations the focus has switched very much onto tags and ensuring that farmers buy the right tags for their sheep, says NSA. With a few tag types now approved for use under the new regulations and with prices starting to be publicly advertised, it is very clear that the value of the microchip seems to be about 50p or thereabouts. NSA believes it would seem logical therefore that those farmers buying tags should only be paying 50p more for an electronic version of the tag that they are already using. The marketplace is already showing that there are some tags which will simply be an electronic version of an existing tag which means the same tag applicators can probably be used, it says. However this may not be the case for all tags. If the tags purchased are of a different design then the fact that they have a microchip in them should not be a reason for them to be hugely more expensive. NSA Chief Executive Peter Morris said: ‘At all the EID information meetings organised by NSA and supported by Eblex and L.A.A. there is a lot of interest in choosing tags and the possible costs of the tags. Paying about 50p more for a microchip in the tag seems to be a good rule of thumb for farmers to use when making their decisions.’ Tag loss remains a very high profile issue with different farmers reporting loss rates of less than 1% per year to over 25% in a few cases. NSA has been informing farmers that there are many factors which influence tag retention and loss, some of which are under the control of the farmer. Mr Morris continued: ‘Farmers buying red replacement tags under the new rules can buy them as part of their ‘run’ of tags and therefore they should only cost the same as other tags. However the aim should be not to have the tag loss in the first place. Using the right applicator is important as is taking time to put the tag in the correct part of the ear to aid retention. However tag design is also an important factor and with change on the way it is a good time for sheep farmers to shop around and investigate what is on offer.’ NSA is concerned that with less than six weeks to go before the new rules come into force, many tags are still in the approval process and the marketplace options are currently quite limited. Currently approved tags are listed on the Rural Payments Agency website