Traceability would give sheep exports a competitive edge

Full nationwide electronic tagging for sheep would give Ireland a competitive advantage for this crucial sector, ICOS national marts chairman Michael Spellman.

He said Ireland already uses a “one tag for life” approach for movement traceability. The adoption of full electronic identification would enhance flock management, allowing for more efficient animal recording and more streamlined sale and movement between farms, marts, and processors.

Mr Spellman outlined his objectives for the Irish sheep sector to industry leaders at the European Association of Livestock Marts at Ciney in Belgium. Nationwide tagging would mean all sheep being electronically tagged on leaving their holdings of origin, with at least one electronic identification tag. The measure would cover all sheep movements.

“Establishing electronic identification for the entire national flock would allow Ireland to differentiate the quality and traceability of our sheep meat on international markets,” he said.

ICOS marts is willing to provide full critical control point designation to provide farmers with a full electronic identification tag-reading service which can be used as part of their herd register. ICOS says this service would greatly ease the burden of sheep electronic identification for farmers and marts alike.

“Electronic identification will present marketing advantages which the Irish sheep meat sector needs to embrace,” said Mr Spellman.

“More importantly, it will ensure differentiation, competitiveness and consumer appeal for our sheep meat exports on international markets where traceability and quality must be continually assured.

“On a practical farmer level, the issue which is of real concern to the livestock marts is that purchasers of store lambs now have a real administrative burden that was not there in the past.”

He says manual recording is unworkable for farmers who buy hundreds, perhaps thousands of store lambs.

“We have heard first hand from Northern Ireland, France, and Belgium the practical benefits for farmers of adopting electronic identification and the feedback from their farmers are they would not return to the old paper-based system.

“The Irish sheep meat industry must demonstrate the uniqueness of our meat offer. Full electronic identification will signal further that our supply chain assurance systems are unrivalled in the marketplace. ICOS is calling on the industry and the Department of Agriculture to embrace full EID within the sheep sector.”


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