Yellow tags set to go

18 Dec, 2002 10:00 PM

THE yellow ear-tag for identification of cattle is likely to disappear in the EU. Instead about 300 million European cows, sheep and goats will receive a chip with their identity information.

Dairy and Beef magazine reports farmers will have the option of a small electronic ear tag, a bolus to put in the animal's stomach or a glass transponder injected under the skin behind the ear.

Four years of research in six member states has involved the electronic tagging of 444,000 cows, 490,000 sheep and 30,000 goats.

Project supervisor, Dr Andre Poucet of Belgium, said farmers most preferred to use the ruminal bolus.

Every electronic tag has a unique number that corresponds with data on the animal and its owner.

The system has been developed to fight fraud with animals, which is particularly likely under the use of ear numbers and tattoos.

Also farmers and consumers did not like the large yellow ear tags that often caused torn or infected ears. The new system is expected to be "much more animal-friendly", Dr Poucet says.

He sees many possibilities for the system. The unique number, for example, can be used on the sticker of meat packaging to ensure better traceability.

"But the system is not that far developed yet. It may take another

couple of years."

Meanwhile, authorities in Malaysia are facing some very different logistical problems.

Confronted with some of the world's strictest anti-drug laws, some of the country's addicts are sniffing fresh cow dung to get high.

An official at the National Narcotics Agency said the problem was small but growing among addicts who cannot afford to buy drugs.

"The cow dung emits gases like sulphur, and addicts sniff on these gases to get high. The problem is not very serious yet, but we are worried as this method means addicts can get high for free"; the official said on condition of anonymity.

Despite harsh anti-narcotics laws that call for death by hanging for drug traffickers, Malaysia has no laws to cover users' latest outlet.


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