SCOTLAND’S ability to track its cattle from field to fork is about to take a great leap forward, with the launch of a 'revolutionary' new electronic identification system to record each animal’s progress.

ScotEID, which manages the database for recording animal movements in Scotland, has designed and developed the proposed new system, which will use both Ultra High Frequency (UHF) scanning alongside Low Frequency technology to bring together all farm livestock movement recording, and do away with the current system of paper passports and numbered ear-tags.

The new electronic tag-based system, which will be demonstrated to the industry in a series of roadshows beginning this autumn, will incorporate births, deaths and movements of cattle, and replace the British Cattle Movement Service’s Cattle Tracing System for Scottish cattle keepers.

According to ScotEID director Bob Yuill, not only will the new system be straightforward to use, it will improve the speed and accuracy of traceability, and further strengthen the provenance of Scotch beef.

“When the system is adopted in Scotland, then all movements to and from markets and to abattoirs will be recorded using UHF technology which is good from both a health and safety perspective but also for ease of use," said Mr Yuill. “Using electronic ID tags, electronic reading and electronic data transfer will reduce the administrative burden and recording errors for the livestock sector and be safer in terms of requiring close handling of cattle. It will also help to future-proof the recording process.”

Mr Yuill stressed that the proposals will be still subject to industry consultation and Scottish Government Regulation, but when agreed, would bring about the 'biggest transformation in the system in almost 30 years'.

Following industry consultation and approval, all new-born calves would be EID tagged as the first step, with discussions continuing about how then to roll the system out to the rest of the national herd – but it is likely that all cattle leaving a holding will require EID tags within two years of the first calves being tagged.

The BCMS CTS service has been the basis of cattle recording in Scotland, England and Wales since going live in September 1998, to comply with EU legislation. ScotEID pointed out that the cattle industry has since experienced 'unprecedented' changes, at the same time as there have been significant advances in technology and the development of the internet to support tracing whole-life movement in real time.

“The existing CTS systems have reached the end of their viable operating lives and can no longer efficiently be sustained or accommodate the changes that are required for cattle EID," said Mr Yuill.

It is envisaged that the continuing development of ScotEID will conclude with it being a 'whole life, multi species system' for all farm livestock in Scotland, with 'multi-animal scanning capabilities' at marts and slaughterhouses.

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