Sunday 8 April 2012

How to label a sheep

I remember a time when Shepherds knew their sheep individually. As an aid to further identification if they strayed each flock had an ear mark, mine used to be the, "back bit of the near lug" in other words a triangular nick at the back edge of the left ear. Rural police forces held a record of all the  flock marks in their area.

However its 2012 and such methods won't do. In the interests of national security, bio security, traceability , manufacturers of plastic tags and I suspect bureaucrat's jobs; sheep now have to a have plastic electronic tag in one ear and a non-electronic flock tag in the other. Failure to do all this entails severe financial  penalties.

The hogg in the picture  above may not look like a security risk, but you never know? Wherever it goes it can be traced by the yellow electronic tag in its left lug. The orange tag is the "Flock tag" with a unique number, the breeding sheep are double tagged. Enough of this or you'll lose the will to live.

The system is so complex and I'm so simple I have to refer to the DEFRA four page, "Quick Guide to Sheep Identification" with its bullet points, flow charts and diagrams when tags are torn out on briars, fences and whins or the lambs get to 9 months.

Could this be a pilot scheme for electronic tagging of UK subjects at birth?. There would have to be exceptions of course; those who are born to rule; future Eton scholars and Bullingdon Club members for example.

This rant was brought on when I realised that one of my shearlings has lost both tags, we'll have to gather all the sheep, work out what the missing number is, replace the tags and record the replacement in the flock register.

Spot the security risk


Hank Hendricks said...

These tags are so helpful. Can i buy the Sheep using Scratch Cards?
What is the reason of using plastic key tags for keys?

Tom Bryson said...

I don't understand your question. The tags are thereto identify the individual sheep and its farm of origin in the interests of traceability of the meat and in the event of an epidemic such as foot and mouth disease. The system doesn't work because the electronic reading equipment at markets only captures 80% of the data (so I am told). Tattoos in the ears would be more effective and humane if combined with a microchip under the skin.