COMPULSORY ELECTRONIC tagging for sheep could “kill or cure” the Scottish sheep industry – and it was anticipated to be coming sooner than many would expect, this week 10 years ago.

The UK government was under considerable pressure to honour its European commitments on livestock traceability, and it seemed likely that it would introduce some form of compulsory sheep tagging or tattooing later in 2000.

It was still unclear, however, whether the EU would require that visible identification would be complemented with an electronic device, in the form of an under-skin or bolus microchip.

Industry experts stressed this week in 2000 that, as the technology stood, electronic tagging was still far too expensive to be borne by the narrow margins of Scottish sheep production.

However, they also pointed out that such systems had the potential, once in place, to improve the industry’s efficiency by leaps and bounds.

“In my opinion, if you are going to go to the trouble of tagging sheep at all, you have to go electronic,” said Scottish Agricultural College sheep specialist, Dr John Vipond, in 2000.

“Individually checking ear-tags on cattle is one thing, but having to read and note ear-tag information on sheep without the help of an electronic system would be just horrendous,” said Dr Vipond.

“Europe wants this kind of system to prevent subsidy fraud, but electronic tagging also has the potential to make really good management information available to farmers,” he added.

10 years ago

• Scotland’s only oilseed crushing facility looked set to be closed for good after its operators failed to find a remedy for the offensive smell that it produced. The reportedly foul odour of the Seedcrushers facility at Arbroath, has been the root cause of a lengthy dispute with residents of a nearby housing estate, who had registered literally thousands of complaints with SEPA. Farming leaders described the closure as “another nail in the coffin” of the Scottish oilseeds sector, which would have to find an extra £5 per tonnes for haulage to the closest processing plants in Hull or Liverpool.

• Sheep industry leaders asked the government to “fast track” the re-licensing process needed to get organophosphate sheep dips back on to the market. As a result of concerns over their potential threat to human health, all OP dips were, in 200, withdrawn from sale pending the design and approval of a new container that would minimise human exposure to the concentrated chemical.

• Despite a quality display of Highlanders at the annual show and sale at Oban, overall averages plummeted to new lows. Nevertheless, breeders in general were in an upbeat mood, and many were even confident for the future. It was two-year-old bulls which were most in demand selling to a top of 3100gns to average £1848 for 10, up a massive £556 on the year with five fewer sold.

25 years ago

• The North Area (Highland) of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ Clubs held the finals of the stockjudging and junior quiz competitions in Wick. A total of 14 teams took part in the stockjudging held in Aberdeen and Northern Marts. The team trophy went to Halkirk YFC’s A team, comprising Elizabeth Steven, James Anderson and George Williamson, who scored a total of 822 points. James and Elizabeth also won individual first and second places respectively.

• Despite seven new exhibitors from Scotland and 18 cattle forward from north of the Border – including some from as far away as Inverness – the Scots failed to get amongst the silverware at the National Holstein Show, at Bingley Hall in Stafford. Of the Scottish first-timers, Dean Anderson, from Mayne Farm, Elgin, came out best. He beat more seasoned campaigners Jim Brown and Colin Davidson in the final line-up. His cow, Oakridges Sheik Betsy was placed first in the junior cow in milk class and went on to take the “honourable” mention spot in the final placings, equivalent to third overall.

• German buyers boosted Galloway trade at the sale at Castle Douglas. They bought 84 heifers and 8 bulls. This followed the export of 528 pedigree Galloway heifers and 60 bulls to Germany at that point since 1980. In all seven German farmers and dealers were present and they just could not get enough black females. One dealer from the north, Herr Willen, bought 24 heifers and one bull, while Herr Dill took 10 females and two bulls. Willie Allan was buying for Herr Shornstein, who had been coming to the sale for many years, and bought 12 heifers.

50 years ago

• For the third year in succession, James Balck, Knocknarling, New Galloway, provided the champion bull at Messrs James Craig’s annual spring show and sale of pedigree and non-pedigree Galloway cattle at Newton Stewart. The year’s leader was the home-bred Kingsley of Knocknarling, which realised the sale’s top price of 112gns – compared with 200gns the previous year – from Mr R Smart, Balgracie, Stranraer. There was an entry of 79 pedigree cattle and 163 non-pedigree animals.

• There was a sharp slump in prices paid for young Ayrshire bulls ar Castle Douglas when Wallets’ Marts had an entry of 123 for their spring show and sale of pedigree stock. The overall average went down from £104 12s 6d in 1959 to £78 18s 8d, the senior class especially showing a big decrease. Only the best type of breeding bull was wanted and for thses trade was up to expectations, with a top price of 300gns paid for the supreme champion, shown by Messrs Jacob Templeton and Son, Rottenrow, Mauchline. This was Rottenrow Royal Knight, by Balig Royal Gift, leader of the March class. It was the second year in succession that Messrs Templeton had won the overhead honour.