A number of cattle have been condemned at processing plants in Northern Ireland due to ID status queries in recent weeks, according to the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).

There has been an increase in the prevalence of this situation due a change in guidelines by the Food Standards Agency, the UFU added.

The organisation has urged all herd keepers to request a herd list from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

This herd list will allow farmers to check whether or not any of the cattle in their herd have an ID status query against them.

The status queries which herd keepers need to keep an eye out for are:

  • NNO: no birth notification;
  • DOBQ: date of birth query;
  • IDQ: identification query.

The UFU has encouraged herd keepers who identify an animal with an ID status query to contact their local District Veterinary Office (DVO); it is important to do so as soon as possible, in order to get the query resolved.


EU legislation requires processing plants to have procedures in place to guarantee that each animal is properly identified, according to the UFU.

The procedures that the processing plant has in place are then verified by DAERA vets, working on behalf of the Food Standards Agency, it added.

Where there were anomalies associated with the identification of a bovine animal in the past, the UFU outlined that the emphasis on proving eligibility for the food chain was on age-based verification via dentition checks.

However, new guidance issued to processing plants now requires that the focus switches from age-based verification to prioritising cattle traceability and food chain integrity, no matter what the age of the animal is, the UFU said.

This means that the animal booked in for slaughter is the same animal which was notified to DAERA at birth and that this is ‘reasonably ascertainable’.

In cases where the identity of the animal is not ‘reasonably ascertainable’, it is declared unfit for human consumption and is condemned.

Financial losses

The UFU claims that herd keepers were not notified of this change in guidance by the Food Standards Agency or DAERA.

These regulation changes have led to small numbers of cattle being condemned, at a considerable financial loss to those who own them, the farm organisation added.

The UFU has raised concerns around this situation with the authorities; the organisation is now working towards finding solutions to this problem.

Meanwhile, the UFU is encouraging all herd keepers to take extra precautions with the registration of calves as well as when buying cattle, to ensure that the identification is accurate.