Following a long-awaited request from the agricultural industry to introduce bovine electronic identification (EID), questioning how cattle in Scotland are tagged, identified, and traced, a consultation has begun on Cattle Identification and Traceability in Scotland.

Attending the launch of the initial stage of the consultation was the minister of agriculture Jim Fairlie, alongside representatives from NFUS, and chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas.

The consultation began with a discussion on how EID cattle tags may provide an improved structure to identifying and tracing cattle throughout Scotland, enhanced with further benefits in reduced risk of human error, increased productivity, and improved safety.

The Scottish Farmer: Cattle at Upper Nisbet Farm, Jedburgh, tagged with EID tagsCattle at Upper Nisbet Farm, Jedburgh, tagged with EID tags (Image: Web)

Set as a legal requirement within the UK, European Union, and other countries, a unique ear tag is necessary to record movements, in turn reducing risk of disease transmission.

The review seeks input from cattle farmers and corresponding businesses regarding their opinions on replacing the current paper passport system with a modernised online register for cattle using EID tags.

Following discussions between Mr Fairlie and representatives, a demonstration was provided by Robert Neill of Upper Nisbet Farm, Jedburgh.

Robert currently operates a full EID system within the farms herd of 320 cattle, using both ultra-high frequency (UHF) and low frequency (LF) tags, having introduced the tags since 2007.

The Scottish Farmer: Robert Neill discussing with MSP Jim Fairlie about key features of using EID tagsRobert Neill discussing with MSP Jim Fairlie about key features of using EID tags (Image: Web)

Following the review Mr Fairlie said: “Farmers and crofters in Scotland have always embraced new and innovative technologies to help improve food production and protect our environment.

“Since 2017 we have worked closely with the cattle industry to identify new methods of cattle identification that will help reduce costs and improve efficiency for cattle farmers. The new system is the latest example of the world-leading innovation on show within Scottish agriculture.

“I would encourage those involved in the cattle industry to make their views known on this important issue.”

NFUS president Martin Kennedy commented: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s consultation on Cattle Identification and Traceability in Scotland, particularly the long-awaited sections related to the use of Bovine electronic identification (EID).

“Scottish farmers and crofters have been supportive of the introduction of electronic identification for decades, as noted in the recent report compiled by ScotEID. In the future, the industry will rely heavily on data to manage our herds’ efficiency and productivity, and to deliver against ambitious environmental goals making Bovine EID crucial".

The consultation closes on June 27. Farmers and business representatives wishing to contribute their opinion may do so using this web link