Farming unions join forces on approach to bovine electronic identification

Representatives of four 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. 

NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Ulster Farmers’ Union agreed there are real benefits of introducing bovine Electronic Identification.

NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) issued a joint statement on Thursday 30th May, underlining the need for any changes to cattle identification to utilise new and effective technologies so livestock and dairy businesses can fully benefit. 

The board chairs recognised the different technologies available for bEID introduction in each devolved nation. 

However, there was consensus that the unions must continue to work with future governments to ensure livestock movement systems work for livestock and dairy businesses across all nations. 

Leading animal health and welfare research 

This news 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 during a visit to 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 across the 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.” 

Long-term future of modern farm businesses 

NFU livestock board chair David Barton added that the benefits of transitioning towards bEID tags are very clear – reducing transcription errors, improving health and safety for cattle handlers, 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,” he continued. 

NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Ulster Farmers’ Union agreed there are real benefits of introducing bovine Electronic Identification.

Need for robust, future proof and cost-effective system 

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 modernised 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.” 

Health and safety benefits 

UFU outgoing beef and lamb chair Pat McKay added: “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.” 

Mr McKay said that 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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