Individual animal identification in Northern Ireland (NI) differs for cattle and sheep.

Since 2010, all sheep are legally required to possess at least one electronic identification (EID) ear tag, along with a second conventional plastic tag.

Lambs must be assigned an EID tag from either nine months of age or when leaving the farm of origin, should this occur before these animals reach the outlined age.

However, on the cattle side, EID tagging is not a compulsory requirement for herd owners, but it has been under review in recent years by government officials.

That said, tag suppliers indicate that there has been a growing number of farmers making use of EID ear tags for cattle, most of which come from the dairy sector where electronic tagging can be incorporated into automated feeding and drafting equipment.

Department statistics for NI show that 75% of cross compliance penalties issued to farmers are linked to breaches in cattle tagging and registrations.

To comply with the compulsory Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) scheme in NI, tissue tagging newborn calves is the most common form of testing on farms.

There are multiple tag distributors across the province, with typical costs around the £5 mark and the more costly tags claiming to offer higher retention rates.

Within this purchase price, the farmer receives one tissue tag and the second ID tag.

Also included in the price is the laboratory costs for BVD testing, which differs from testing in the Republic of Ireland, where farmers can purchase ID tags and BVD tags separately.