While the introduction of mandatory EID tagging of sheep has been extended until June 2019, the substantive issues have not gone away according to Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) sheep chairman, John Brooks.
Speaking with That’s Farming, John Brooks said it is not something that farmers are going to take lying down.
Brooks believes strongly EID tagging won’t alter the current batch system of traceability that meat plants use after slaughter. Explaining this, he said: “When the animal is slaughtered the head is cut off and the tag is disposed; it is then batch traceability after that. The same thing is going to happen with the EID tags.”
It is at no great shock that sheep producers across the country are outraged with the Department of Agriculture’s decision to introduce yet another cost to production.
Based on additional costs of €1/lamb and a throughput of some 2.5 million lambs per year, EID tagging, if introduced next June, will add some €2.5 million cost to sheep farmers.
Brooks noted that over the last four to five years the average margin on a lowland lamb was €14, based on an annual average price of €100 or €4.80/kg. With the additional costs of €1/lamb, the introduction of EID tagging will impose a 7% income cut on sheep farmers. He added that this percentage would be much greater for hill farmers
“ICSA members have no problem using EID tags if the government or the meat industry pays for it,” Brook stated.
Commenting on the once-off payment of €100 offered to farmers to phase in the mandatory EID scheme, Brooks said farmers find this more as an insult.
“The extra costs associated will be on-going for sheep farmers so if the Department of Agriculture and the meat industry wish to proceed with this, they should pay for it on an on-going basis.
“For the last number of decades, every sort of a levy has been thrown upon the farmer and taken out of their cheque. Enough is enough,” Brooks said.
It has been implied that the introduction of mandatory EID tagging is a requirement to gain access to new markets. However, ICSA sheep chairman believes this is a “pipe dream”.
He explained that markets in the Middle East are currently being filled mainly from New Zealand and Australia, where they have no requirement for EID tagging.
“We will be working on the agenda between now and next June; there are a number of actions we can take, and we will be discussing them over the next while,” Brooks concluded.
Mart manager’s views
The introduction of mandatory EID tagging will also have implications for the country’s marts.
Speaking with That’s Farming, Eimear McGuinness, manager of Donegal Mart, voiced her concerns about the intended compulsory EID scheme.
Due to the additional cost of a double tag, McGuinness believes farmers won’t show fat sheep at the marts. “I think it will stop an awful lot of fat sheep going to the marts. Basically, what they are trying to do is bring them from farm to factory and cut out the marts,” she said.
The marts will be gaining nothing out of it, according to McGuinness, putting them in the same boat as the farmers
“It seems to have been brought in to suit the meat plants and while I understand that they are trying to get new markets, which is great, the meat plants should be carrying the can, not everyone else,” McGuinness stated.The mart manager also raised the question of Minister Creed’s advisors. “I would really love to know who the minister’s advisers are of late. When you see the suckler farmers and the fodder crisis, everything, I would have to look very badly on his advisers,” McGuinness concluded.