Poor quality cattle tags cost NI farmers over £700,000 a year

cattle tags

Ulster Farmers Union have discovered that poor quality cattle tags are costing farmers in Northern Ireland over £700,000 (€807,660) a year.

The Ulster Farmers Union has repeatedly, over the past decade raised concerns over the durability and quality of cattle tags required for traceability.

These concerns have been thoroughly investigated. AFBI (Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute) were commissioned by DARD to investigate cattle tags retention rate. The study of 379,479 cattle in 2007 discovered that 18% of the cattle had lost at least one of their ID tags during a 6 year period. The study also highlighted that a cumulative loss rate of 4% of cattle tags per year of the cow’s life.

UFU requests cattle tags research

The Ulster Farmers Union requested detail from DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) about the exact number of cattle needing an ear tag replaced and the total number of cattle tags ordered each year for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The findings showed that each year 11-12% of the cattle required at least one replacement cattle tag between the years 2013 and 2015. This amounted to 663,000 replacement cattle tags ordered over the three year period alone.

This cost was calculated by the UFU at £3.25 (excluding VAT) per tag. This means that Northern Ireland farmers are spending in excess of £700,000 each year in replacement cattle tags to ensure effective traceability.


The true cost of replacing cattle tags is far higher

The costs of replacing cattle tags is far higher than the cost of ID tags alone as the tagging process can be extremely labour intensive. The cattle first need rounding up and taking to an appropriate handling area or crush to be safely tagged. The farmer also needs to spend the time ordering the tags, if both tags are missing the farmer has to inspect every animal to discover which tag is missing from the herd. Or pay £100 – £320 for DNA testing to match it with it’s dam or sibling.

Although the average beef farm in Northern Ireland has 17 cattle, there are over 4,700 farms with over 100 cattle and 878 with over 300 cattle. Which makes inspecting all of their animals individually an extremely arduous task.


The UFU want metal secondary tags

The UFU wants DAERA to allow Northern Ireland farmers to use a single metal tag as the approved secondary identification tag as they are far more durable and robust. This is already an option for British farmers and approved by DEFRA.

The UFU believe that by using a metal tag as the secondary cattle tag could halve the loss of ear tags and the chances of an animal losing both ear tags simultaneously would be near obsolete. Which would also improve traceability as well as cutting the cost to farmers exponentially.

The UFU would like to see new technology developed allowing the metal tags to incorporate EID, and a primary tag capable of taking an ear notch sample for disease monitoring and DNA sampling.

This would be an incredible benefit to farmers, vets, retailers and consumers as it would offer clear insight into each individual animal’s background and improve records, traceability, and genetics.



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