Farmers ordering tags at present should take note of a new tag threshold introduced on 22 July 2020. The threshold, introduced to comply with EU legislation, places an upper limit on the number of tags that can be ordered.

Tag suppliers report that the threshold is causing some complications for select farmers who try and bulk-buy larger numbers of new tags than are typically required for a calendar year or where higher numbers are being ordered to take account of significant expansion.

The threshold is based on the average number of calves born in the previous three years, plus an allowance to take account of a possible small increase in numbers. The tag threshold can be easily accessed through the Department of Agriculture’s Agfood facility.

Threshold enquiry

Once you are logged into your Agfood account, select “Animal Identification and Movements”.

On the top of the webpage, there is a list of options including a heading “Tagging”. When you click on this heading, it will bring you through to the interface shown in Figure 1. This sets out the maximum number of tags you can order in your herd. It also sets out the balance of tags that can be ordered in a year where there is a split between ordering dates.

Herdkeepers who increased the number of breeding females in their herd and require their threshold to be increased can contact the Department of Agriculture Animal Identification and Movement section on 01-505 8880 or email

It is also worth bearing in mind possible future changes when ordering tags and avoid a position of having a big surplus of tags on hand in case electronic identification becomes mandatory in the years ahead or if predicted tissue tag testing under the Bovine Viral Diarrhoea eradication programme concludes at the end of 2022.

Birth registrations

Some tag suppliers are working at maximum capacity at present, which is not surprising given the surge in calf birth registrations from mid-January through to the end of April. This has resulted from a much greater focus in tightening the calving spread on dairy farms to a 10- to 12-week period in spring.

Figure 2 clearly illustrates this change with an additional 150,000 calves born in February over the space of just five years and almost 200,000 extra calf births in the first three months of the year.

This has been driven by expansion in the national dairy herd with the increase even higher when a reduction in suckler birth registrations is accounted for.

With 1,768,908 calves registered in the first four months of 2020, it is not surprising that tag suppliers are currently vying for business, with businesses particularly keen to tie into group deals or large herds.

Electronic tags

There has been substantial growth in the market for EID tags in recent years and this has been driven by an increase of new technologies on farms including automatic calf feeders, in-parlour feeders and drafting units.

The biggest trend has been in dairy farmers tagging heifer calves with EID tags, while there are also more reports of farmers inserting electronic tags on male calves where there is a deal negotiated for the calves in advance and calves are being fed on automatic feeders.

The latest data shows that in region of 20% or 400,000 of the 2m new visual tag sets ordered in 2020 were electronic tags.

Tag orders

With tag ordering in full swing we carried out a survey on the price of a standard visual tag test, replacement visual tags and BVD tissue tags and tag sets incorporating both a tissue tag and EID tag.

The latest price list for the main tags are detailed in Table 1.

Cormac Tagging continues to offer free replacements for tags which it has previously sold. The cost entered relates to the tag cost where tags are being ordered that were initially supplied by another company. The company say a 99% tag retention rate and free replacements is valuable to producers in saving time and money, while the tag treshold facility is also incorporated in its website.

There is a similar situation with Datamars and the company explains that free replacements are offered for 12 months after tags have been ordered. The cost of its supplementary button tag has reduced 20c/kg to €1.80.

The price listed in Table 1 does not factor in the temporary VAT reduction in place, with the company offering to pass this back to the farmer. For example, a set of visual tags adjusted to take account of the VAT reduction costs €1.86. Alternatively, herdkeepers can opt to donate this VAT reduction to Embrace Farm.

James Manly, Mullinahone Co-op general manager, said changes for the 2020/2021 tag season include the company incorporating a facility to check tag threshold levels online or over the phone while there are reductions in the price of select replacement tags. The price of single replacement visual tag is 4c lower while a single replacement EID tag costs 6c less and a BVD button tag costs 3c less. The company are running a free weekly customer draw with a rechargeable clipper up for grabs.