§ Mr. Peter Atkinson
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on changes to the rules about the registration and recording of cattle.
§ Mr. Soames
Legislation comes into force today which requires owners or keepers of cattle to register that fact with their local animal health office. They will also have to record the deaths of any cattle in their herd books kept on the farm.
These changes are necessary to implement the EC directive (92/102) on the identification and registration of animals which was adopted on 27 November 1992. This will involve important changes affecting most of the livestock industry. Its objective is to set up a harmonised animal identification system to enable animals to be traced back to their farm of origin, for disease control purposes and for policing payments made under the common agricultural policy. My officials are discussing with industry organisations how these new requirements will be implemented so as to minimise the burden on the industry as a whole, including those who have charge of animals for only a short period, such as auctioneers and dealers.
The first changes affect only cattle. The directive requires that a national register of all holdings on which any cattle are kept must be established specifying the address of the holding, the name of keeper, and the holding number. As well as farms, this will cover all 550W premises where the animals are kept, including slaughter-houses and markets, dealers, zoos and showgrounds. Animal health offices already have a record of known cattle herds, and will be contacting known herd owners to verify registration details. However, other owners or keepers of cattle will need to contact their local animal health office to supply them with their details.
Keepers will also be required to record in their herd books the deaths of any cattle, in addition to the information which they have to record under existing rules. To comply with these requirements an amendment to the Bovine Animals (Identification, Marking and Breeding Records) Order 1990 has been made and will come into effect today.
The directive requires ear tags for cattle to be coded to identify the country of birth. It has now been agreed that the code to be used for the United Kingdom should be the letters 'UK'.
The use of ear tags to identify all cattle, and this new format for tags, will become mandatory before the end of the year. Further announcements will be made later about the detailed arrangements. In the meantime farmers are advised to limit the purchase of ear tags, especially bulk purchases, to the quantities necessary to fulfil the existing rules until the new requirements have been announced. There will however be no requirement to re-tag animals which are already tagged when the rules change, so existing stocks of tags may continue to be used for the time being.
The directive also covers sheep, goats and pigs. The rules for these species are less detailed and do not come into force for some time. Further announcements will be made as implementation measures are developed.