The National Farmers’ Union of Scotland (NFUS) is calling for a “clear mandate” for the introduction of ultra-high frequency (UHF) bovine electronic identification.

The union said discussions on electronic identification (EID) for Scottish cattle are now more than two decades old and is adamant that years of industry discussion, lobbying, research and development must now lead to the introduction of bovine EID in Scotland.

In response to the Scottish government’s consultation on cattle identification and traceability, NFUS livestock policy manager, Lisa Hislop, said: “Our position is clear. We want to see a mandate for the introduction of UHF EID.

“UHF is the newer technology versus the now dated Low Frequency (LF), which is currently used in sheep.

“The benefits of UHF outstrip those of LF, notably the ability to achieve 100 percent read rates on-farm, in transport and in markets which improves the health and safety of anyone who works with cattle.”

‘Streamline’ husbandry tasks

Hislop said UHF will be able to streamline the husbandry tasks on-farm including any inspections, as well as the potential to phase out paper passports, saving the industry more than £20,000 and the Scottish government more than £500,000 on paper and postage.

“We appreciate there is confusion and misunderstandings around EID which is understandable given the considerable time taken to get to this point. But fundamentally UHF EID gives those who want to use technology the opportunity to get the most out of it,” she said.

“However, the benefit of UHF for all cattle keepers is that the tags will continue to be ‘What You See Is What You Get’ (WYSIWYG), meaning the animal’s ID will be printed on the tag and you can request a paper passport as is today. This also mitigates any concern about cross-border trade.

“We want Scottish government to introduce the mandate with a clear timeline for introduction as soon as possible. This will give industry confidence to invest in the necessary equipment and technology for EID.”

Hislop said any savings for Scottish government generated by the move to EID should be retained and spent on the Scottish cattle industry including investment in the likes of MyHerdStats.

MyHerdStats is a free programme from ScotEID that gives basic herd data from the national animal movement database to all cattle keepers in Scotland.

“We would also like to see capital funding available for the transition to EID through the future support framework,” she said.

“As the industry is encouraged to use data to become more efficient, we need the policy and tools to do so.”