A new EU Regulation for the identification and traceability of bovine animals (that is, cattle, bison and buffalo) came into effect in July. It will enable the use of official electronic identification (EID) tagging for bovine animals, which will be similar to that used for sheep and goats. Member States have been given up to five years to set up their systems to run a bovine EID system. Each country can decide to make it compulsory to use an electronic identifier, but they must have consulted their industry fully before making the decision. Although the five years commences from July 2014, the next necessary stage is for the European Commission to agree with Member States the exact technology for EU bovine EID and to publish it.
What does all this mean for UK cattle, bison and buffalo farmers? First, there will be no major alterations to current procedures immediately. Cattle, bison and buffalo will still have to have a visible tag in each ear, with the same number on each, which gives the animal its unique, lifetime identity – just the same as they do now. This will be the case until the five-year transition period comes to an end. This is because all Member States must have the same deadline for moving to EID and some countries would require more changes to their IT systems. Even after bovine EID comes in, cattle, bison and buffalo would still have to have one visible tag, along with one electronic identifier. The EU list of potential official electronic devices includes tags, ruminal boluses and ‘injectables’. One of the decisions that will need to be made during the transition period is which of these devices would be approved for use. Again, that question will be part of a full industry consultation. In the meantime, the current selection of unofficial EID tags will continue to be available.