The farming community seem to see more sense in tagging cattle than sheep. Stringent paper records are already a requirement of the industry, and quite a few farmers believe switching to digitised record keeping will save time and effort. But what about money?
There is no stipulation under the proposals on who pays for the equipment, whether Bovine EID will be compulsory and whether strict penalties will be levied against non-compliance.
Sheep EID has suffered a great many issues, costing farmers hundreds of thousands through equipment failure and fines. Are we likely to encounter the same littany of issues when the ear tags are attached to cows? Is this monitoring really necessary? Before the introduction of such legislation, was farming and meat more dangerous, say, 30 years ago?
I will be reading into these matters and addressing Parliament next week and would appreciate any feedback from farmers about their concerns and questions. Feel free to comment on the blogpost.
In the meantime, here's a rather pertinent joke I stumbled across the other day.
A farmer named Bill was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in Wales when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced toward him out of a cloud of dust.
The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses and YSL tie, leaned out the window and asked the farmer, "If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?"
Bill looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, "Sure, why not?"
The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.
The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg.
Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.
Finally, he prints out a full-colour, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer, turns to the farmer and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."
"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves," says Bill.
He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on with amusement as the young man stuffs it into the boot of his car.
Then Bill says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?"
The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"
"You're a Member of the European Parliament", says Bill.
"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"
"No guessing required." answered the farmer. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You used millions of pounds worth of equipment trying to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about how working people make a living - or about cows, for that matter. This is a flock of sheep...
.... now give me back my bloody dog.