MAY 12, 2009: Equipment used for tagging and electronically identifying sheep is unreliable and difficult to use, according to a report.
The two-year study into EID, funded by the Welsh Assembly and Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales), found some farms benefitted from easier recording of stock movements, lambing and medicine use. But costs were high, equipment could be unreliable, and farmers struggled to cope with unfamiliar technology. The study, which looked at the use of a range of different EID equipment on 14 farms and one abattoir, found problems with equipment supplies to farmers and compatibility issues between hand-held readers and tags. Hand-held readers were generally reliable and easy to use, while race readers worked well with integrated lamb crates. But using race readers to quickly read the tags of a group of sheep gave disappointing results, unless sheep stopped next to the reader. This persuaded some participating farmers that it was quicker to use a hand held reader on sheep in a race rather than a fitted static reader. Some farmers also found it very difficult to come to terms with the technology involved. Ed Bailey, NFU Cymru vice-president, claimed the interim report confirmed the strength of the union’s arguments against compulsory sheep EID. The full report will be published in October and the interim findings are available at www.hccmpw.org.uk.