EQUINE traceability across Ireland continues to be enhanced as the country’s second annual Equine Census was officially launched on Wednesday and will conclude on December 16th next. Census forms were posted to some 29,000 registered premises across the country earlier this week.

Any person who kept any equines (which include horses, ponies, donkeys, mules and zebras) overnight on November 30th 2022 is required to submit a completed census return to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine by Friday, December 16th 2022.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD (FF), recently updated the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee on equine traceability efforts and underlined the Government’s commitment to equine welfare, stating that nearly 12,500 equine keepers had submitted a return to the 2021 inaugural equine census. That Committee also heard that work is also progressing on the E-passports for horses which will allow real time monitoring of their movements.

The issue of E-passports was also raised in the Senate this week by Senator Victor Boyhan (Ind) who commented, “I welcome the confirmation from Minister McConalogue’s Department that he intends to approve an equine E-passport shortly. E-passports have enormous benefits in terms of real time monitoring – movements and ownership of equines.”

Online portal system upgraded

Minister McConalogue stated: “The census will provide valuable information to the Department particularly in the area of disease prevention but also in addressing public health concerns and in dealing with lost, straying or stolen horses.”

He thanked the significant number of keepers who engaged with the 2021 census and encouraged all keepers to engage with the process in 2022.

While paper census returns will be accepted by his Department, Minister McConalogue strongly encouraged keepers to submit their 2022 census information online through the dedicated secure Equine Census portal on agfood.ie, which has been accepting 2022 data since Thursday (December 1st).

The Minister acknowledged that there were some technical issues with the online portal in 2021 but commented: “My Department has taken on board feedback received from keepers and we have worked hard to resolve these issues to ensure that keepers’ experience in 2022 will be much improved.”

He added that, where 2021 data is recorded on his Department’s system, this will be available to keepers to use as a base for their 2022 return. This feature will ease the administrative burden of re-entering equine data for animals that are still present on the holding. The online portal also features a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section and a video has been added to the portal to assist keepers with large numbers of equines in notifying their data.

Keepers will be required to record the total number of equines present on their holding on census night. For those equines that ordinarily reside on the premises, the Unique Equine Life Number (UELN), also known as the passport number, of each equine that has been identified with an identification document will also be required, as will the approximate date on which each animal moved to the premises.

Where equines are present on a temporary basis (e.g. for training/competition/breeding purposes), the individual UELNs will not be required and only the total number of such animals present on the night is required.

Minister McConalogue advised that the census is required by the EU Animal Health Law (Regulation (EU) 2016/429), which requires that the Department records the details of the premises where all equines resident in the State are habitually kept. The census is designed to create an initial link between each equine kept in the State on census day and the premises on which it is kept at that time.

AIMS database

A profile of all equines present on a holding on that date will be created on the Department’s Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) system, which houses the central equine database. Keepers who do not return a completed census return will not have an equine profile on the Department’s systems and may not be eligible to apply for equine-related schemes that may be introduced by the Department in the future.

The Minister advised that guidance to online submission of census data has been included with the census forms issued by his Department. Anyone seeking assistance with submitting census data, either on paper or online, should contact the Department’s AIM Division by email to equinecensus2022@agriculture.gov.ie or by phone at 01-5058881.