The UK has the largest number of sheep of any Member State - and unusually, the UK also moves each sheep more times on average than in any other Member State. The UK's stratified and extensive industry mean that any manual recording of individual sheep and goat identities, sex, breed and genotype (if known), month and year of birth would be very difficult and would impose significant burdens on the industry. Given the links to the payment of sheep subsidies, it is crucial that UK sheep farmers can comply with any system implemented.

The proposal will require some amendments to take account of the practical problems faced by the UK sheep industry and to ensure it is both workable and enforceable, and that the timescales for implementation are realistic.

The UK's view is that it is not practical to push ahead with individual animal recording until such time as there is a harmonised electronic EID system available at a price that the industry can afford. The EU recognises the need for EID and is anticipating compulsory introduction probably by 2006; it is however pushing ahead with a manual recording system in advance of an electronic one.

3. Options

Three main options have been identified:

Option 1 - Continue to rely on present controls, but do no more.

Option 2 - Introduce full range of changes as required by Commission's proposal

Option 3 - Continue to rely on present controls and move to electronic identification from 1 July 2006.

There is a wide range of further variants on the above options ...


Option 1

Do nothing. The domestic controls on sheep and goat identification were reviewed following the FMD outbreak. The existing domestic requirements go further than the current EU requirements contained in EC Directive 92/102 and already implement some of the changes proposed by the Commission's proposal but not all of them.

Option 2

Implement the Commission's proposal in full.


The proposal provides for:

 Double tagging with individual identification numbers, within one month of birth, by 1 July 2003 (there is a possibility of a derogation from tagging for up to 6 months in the case of extensively reared and free range animals);

 In the case of animals intended for slaughter before six months of age double tagging with flock/herd marks and the month of birth;

 Individual identification and recording of individual animals and movements by 1 July 2003, in the case of animals intended for slaughter before six months of age batch recording of animal details will be permitted;

 Movement documents recording individual animal details by 1 July 2003, in the case of animals intended for slaughter before six months of age batch recording of animals will be permitted;

 Recording of all batch movements on a central database by 1 July 2005;

 Mandatory electronic identification from 1 July 2006; and the

 Granting of aid (i.e. Sheep Annual Premium payments (SAPS)) would be dependent on compliance with these proposals.

It differs from the current system in place in the UK in so far that the existingsystem:

 requires individual identification using a single tag but does not require individual animal recording. Before animals are moved off the holding on which they were born they must be individually identified. When they move from subsequent holdings they must either be identified with a movement tag showing the location of the previous holding or be marked with an individual number (which is unlikely to be the preferred option in the vast majority of cases).

Option 3

Retain existing domestic requirements until 1 July 2006 when a system of electronic identification for sheep and goats would be introduced. The UK would argue that the enhancements already put in place in the UK following the FMD outbreak, provide traceability on a batch basis. In the event of a serious disease outbreak they would ensure potential infected batch movements could be quickly identified and controlled using our central movements database (AMLS and SAMU). There is no need to move to a manual individual animal identification system in advance of EID as long as the existing EU system of batch traceability is in place. It needs however to be borne in mind that not all Member States have strengthened their controls and some will still be relying solely on the provisions of EC Directive 92/102 which would not provide batch traceability.

DEFRA's webpage on

European Commission proposal for the indentification and registration of sheep and goats