Project seeks farmers' views on livestock ear tag loss and retention

The survey asks Scottish livestock farmers about their practical experiences with ear tagging (Photo: SRUC)
The survey asks Scottish livestock farmers about their practical experiences with ear tagging (Photo: SRUC)

A project investigating the factors impacting on ear tag loss and retention in cattle and sheep in Scotland has now launched an online survey.

The new survey aims to collect data from livestock keepers across Scotland about their practical experiences regarding ear tags.

Specifically, researchers from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) want to develop a better understanding of the various factors, and their interactions, contributing to ear tag losses.

Ear tags are a fundamental part of livestock traceability and while timely replacement of lost and damaged tags is vital in maintaining the integrity of these systems, it can come at a cost to farmers.

The structure of Scottish livestock farming – with many independent smallholdings, crofts and farms operating in diverse settings – can make it difficult to identify trends behind lost and damaged ear tags.

Following earlier consultations, researchers found that ear tag loss and retention are linked to the way tags are applied, the environment they are exposed to and the performance of the tags themselves.

SRUC team leader Dr Sam Beechener said: “We’ve come to understand that lost, damaged and unreadable tags are a function of initial application, the external environment and tag performance – a so-called ‘ear tagging triangle.’

“We’re keen to explore these interactions in the next stage of the project by collecting data from a broad cross section of livestock keepers across Scotland through a new survey.”

The interactive form, which has been designed so participants only see those questions relevant to the stock they keep, should take no longer than 10-15 minutes to complete with all responses treated in confidence.

Dr Beechener added: "Results will be shared to encourage and inform discussion on a topic that is expected to be of interest to many of Scotland’s livestock keepers."

The project is funded by the Scottish government with a view to establishing how ear tag losses are impacting on livestock keepers, what the causes are, and how they might be addressed.