THERE were almost 12 per cent fewer cattle replacements tags sold in 2018 compared with 2016, according to official figures obtained from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
While there were 219,816 replacement tags sold in 2016 and 214,724 sold in 2017, this decreased to 193,903 in 2018 – a 26,000 reduction. These figures can mean a substantial cost saving for the industry – the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has calculated the average cost of replacing lost tags at £3.25 plus VAT. The figures also illustrate a reduction in the frustration and labour involved in herding out animals for re-tagging.
Farmer evidence for this reduction points to improved retention of ear tags due to superior design and more robust tags that have become available in recent years. For example, the market leader, the Caisley tag, is made from a new polymer plastic and boasts a 99 per cent retention rate illustrating that this market leading retention has contributed greatly to the decreased sales.
Caisley tags first became the ‘tag of choice’ in 2016 when their ultra efficient BVD tag hit the market and enabled many farmers to identify BVD infected calves accurately shortly after birth, thus preventing them from remaining on the farm and infecting other animals. The simple design, easy to use applicator and automatically sealed sample vial provides easy and accurate detection of infected animals.
This success led to increased interest in cattle identification tags and experience has highlighted their 99 per cent retention rate as a major factor in their popularity. A cleanly punched hole in the ear tissue allows free and frictionless tag rotation throughout the animal’s lifetime and reduces the need for so many replacements.
Indeed it is this success that has prompted the manufacturers of Caisley tags to award an exclusive contract for their products to a Northern Ireland distributor, after a comprehensive supplier evaluation which included an analysis of customer service, production efficiency and routes to market.
Farmer comments regarding this contract have indicated that it provides an additional bonus in the availability of the tags and the service provided with them. Tags can be printed while you wait at various centres throughout Northern Ireland. In addition farmers can phone their requirements and have a next day delivery to the farm, mart or whatever venue they choose. The tags are supplied in a single strip of four for each animal, which speeds up tagging and removes the risk of inserting non-matching tags.
One farmer commented: “While the cost of replacing tags is annoying when you have already paid for them, the inconvenience of having to segregate one or two animals from the herd for this single task is time consuming and frustrating. If you complete a task you do not expect to have to repeat it at a later date.
“When you count the time and help needed to segregate an animal and secure it for re-tagging, especially if it happens to be on an out-farm or rented ground, it is both frustrating and costly, never mind the additional paperwork involved.”
Another farmer interviewed said: “If you can plan and allocate a time for re-tagging, it relieves some of the stress, but if the animal concerned is due to go to the mart for sale, or to the meat plant, and even more important you have a quality assurance inspection coming up, then the pressure is on and the job has to be done, whether it suits your time schedule or the help available. A robustly designed tag with a very high retention rate can save both time and money.”