The Welsh farming industry’s objections to the compulsory electronic identification (EID) of sheep were today made clear to the European Commission by Farmers’ Union of Wales hill farming committee chairman Derek Morgan.
Mr Morgan’s comments were made during a meeting with EC officials in Llandovery, Carmarthenshire, organised by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Speaking after the meeting, the Llangurig sheep farmer said: "Unlike most farmers I have first hand experience of EID, having used it on a small proportion of my Welsh Mountain sheep for the past six years.
"In my six years experience, I have found that the technology is not sufficiently developed to be practical for the average Welsh flock and, even when dealing with a small number of sheep that are electronically identified, we are forced to manually record information on paper due to reliability issues with the technology.
"It’s all very well using it to record and monitor a small specialist flock, but scaling its use up for every sheep in the country is madness."
Mr Morgan also emphasised the particular problems that the Regulation would bring for Welsh businesses, highlighting the fact that 80% of Wales comprises Less Favoured land, and that Welsh farms are therefore dependent upon moving animals from the mountains into the lowlands for wintering.
"This means that Wales, out of necessity, has a particularly high number of movements which, in turn, means that we will have to invest more heavily in the technology than in other countries."
Throughout today the Commission heard a range of concerns regarding the impact of the technology on the entire sheep industry during meetings with farmers, abattoirs and livestock auctioneers.
"There are serious concerns regarding the impact that compulsory EID will have for the entire supply chain," added Mr Morgan. "Even the slightest hitch with the technology could bring a livestock market or abattoir to a standstill, with major financial consequences for all concerned.
"As upland farmers, we are particularly reliant on the market system in terms of selling animals to finishers from the lowlands and I am extremely concerned that the cost of implementing the Regulation in markets is likely to be passed on to farmers or result in market closures.
"Market closures would increase the control that the supermarkets have over the supply chain, and that would be extremely bad news for the industry."