Farming unions call for cattle ID to utilise new technology

Following a meeting of the UK farming unions’ livestock board chairs in Scotland last week, the organisations (NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and Ulster Farmers’ Union) have underlined the need for any changes to cattle identification to utilise new and effective technologies so livestock and dairy businesses can fully benefit.

At the meeting, the UK farming unions agreed that there are real potential benefits of introducing bovine Electronic Identification (bEID), from efficiency and animal health and welfare gains to improving the health and safety of livestock handlers.

The board chairs recognised the different technologies available for bEID introduction in each devolved nation. However, there was consensus that the unions must continue work with future governments to ensure livestock movement systems work for livestock and dairy businesses across all nations.

This comes as English farmers await Defra’s response to the consultation on cattle identification, registration and movements, which has been paused due to the general election, and as Scottish farmers are being encouraged to submit their responses to the Cattle Identification and Traceability consultation which is currently live.

New bEID technologies were demonstrated as part of the visit at Upper Nisbet, Jedburgh, as part of the pioneering research and development carried out in Scotland by ScotEID2.

NFU Scotland livestock board chair Hugh Fraser said, “It was great to host our counterparts from the across UK and showcase our leading animal health and welfare research at the Moredun Institute, and the industry’s ambition and recognition of bEID. I would urge all governments to consider evidence produced by ScotEID trials to enable the livestock sector to access the identified benefits of bEID, which can only be delivered by Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) tags. The Scottish Government is currently consulting on this, and we have a real opportunity to get bEID across the line. We look forward to continuing to work with other UK farming unions on bEID as well as other areas of mutual concern.”

NFU livestock board chair David Barton said, “The benefits of transitioning towards bEID tags are very clear – reducing transcription errors, improving the health and safety for those of us that handle cattle, and driving forward innovation and productivity. I have seen firsthand the benefits that UHF tags can offer the sector, and as a beef farmer I do not want these technologies to be overlooked and ignored.

“Future governments will need to seriously consider what is best for the long-term future of modern farm businesses, and I believe access to both UHF and LF, mandated at the same time, should be part of that.”

NFU Cymru livestock board chair Rob Lewis said, “Members have made it clear that they see the introduction of electronic ID on cattle tags as being long overdue. However, we need a robust, future proof and cost-effective system that can be totally aligned with a modernized cattle database. The outcome of ongoing government trial work on farm, in markets and in abattoirs will be important in deciding on the best way forward.”

UFU outgoing beef and lamb chair Pat McKay said, “The farm trip to Upper Nisbet allowed us to see bEID technology in practice. BEID offers farmers so many benefits with health and safety being one of the most important. Meanwhile, our visit to the Moredun Institute allowed us to see some of the research work being done into sheep scab, roundworms, and other diseases. This critical research will help the future generations of farmers to detect and vaccinate for diseases to help improve animal health and welfare on farm.”

The meeting underlined many shared challenges for livestock farmers across the UK and opportunities for cross-union working. Discussions included taking a joint approach on BTV-3 in terms of both vaccine rollout and trade implications, securing a fair return for livestock, and reiterating the important role of ruminants in delivering food security.

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