Earmarking Sheep May Become Optional in Iceland

iceland sheep breeding

The practice of marking sheep by cutting notches into their ears may soon become optional in Iceland, Bændablaðið reports. Earmarking sheep and goats is required by law in Iceland, though most Icelandic sheep are now also tagged with plastic or metal plates on their ears. The legislative change is proposed on the basis of animal welfare as well as the efficiency of more modern methods such as tagging.

An old tradition to mark ownership

The tradition of earmarking livestock is not unique to Iceland. It is practised across the Nordic region and the Shetland Islands, and most likely arrived in Iceland with the earliest settlers. Notching sheep ears with distinctive patterns was historically done to mark their ownership, an important practice wherever sheep are released in the summer to roam freely and mix with animals from other farms, as has been done in Iceland since the island’s settlement.

Today most Icelandic sheep are also marked with plastic or metal ear tags that are printed with the designated numbers of their farm, owner, and locality, as well as a symbol identifying their county and individual livestock number. A bill currently under review by the Icelandic Parliament proposes making this tagging system mandatory and making earmarking optional, as the “age-old method of safeguarding animal ownership is no longer needed.”

Photo: Vísindavefurinn. Earmarks used by Icelandic sheep farmers.

Unlikely that sheep farmers will stop earmarking

Unnsteinn Snorri Snorrason, CEO of the National Association of Sheep Farmers (Landssamtök sauðfjárbænda), says that the Association is not opposed to the change, though he doubts that farmers will stop using earmarks. Unlike tags, Unnsteinn says, earmarks allow farmers to identify sheep from a distance, though even newer methods such as microchipping could provide other advantages when it comes to identifying and herding sheep. “Earmarks are handy where sheep are kept on common land or where farmers have adjacent pastureland,” says Unnsteinn, though they are less important where sheep are kept on private land.

“The flaw with stopping earmarking and when ears are whole is that then anyone could cut off a tag and replace it with their own and claim the sheep. Farmers must therefore decide for themselves whether they want to keep marking and thus ensure their ownership or exclusively use tags. There are also farmers that don’t want to earmark their sheep based on animal welfare views.”

Dr. Ólafur R. Dýrmundsson, editor of the National Earmarks Register (Landsmarkaskrá) says the reasoning behind the proposed change is not well supported. “A secure labelling system for sheep in Iceland has now gained greater weight, with regard to the safety of both animal feed and food. This is partly because many sheep disease prevention lines have been scrapped or their maintenance has been neglected in recent years.”

Nasdaq Central Securities Depository in Iceland Merges with Nasdaq CSD

Nasdaq central securities depository in Iceland has merged with Nasdaq CSD, which will now operate in Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, RÚV reports. An announcement about the merger states that in its wake, Icelandic operations will be able to make full use of the opportunities and connections that Nasdaq CSD’s securities depository system has to offer, thus creating new opportunities for both domestic and foreign customers.

“This is both the biggest infrastructure change as well as technological advancement that has taken place in the Icelandic securities market for 20 years and will allow us to participate in innovation and development in this branch that will deliver to our clients,” stated Magnús Kristinn Ásgeirsson, CEO of Nasdaq CSD in Iceland. It is expected that the technical part of the merger – the introduction of a new central securities depository system – will be completed on 15 June.

In 2017, Nasdaq CSD became the first European securities depository to obtain operating licenses under the new European Central Securities Depository Regulation (CSDR), and was recently granted a licence to operate in Iceland according to that regulation. Nasdaq CSD has integrated the operations of Nasdaq Securities Centre in Iceland with Nasdaq CSD in accordance with CSDR’s requirements for governance and operations, with a view to ensuring more secure and efficient settlement services in the Icelandic securities market in accordance with international standards.

Two-Metre Rule Relaxed in Iceland as Gyms and Bars Reopen


Groups of 200 may gather together and gyms and bars may reopen today in Iceland as the second stage of lifting COVID-19 restrictions takes effect. The state of emergency declared on February 28 has been lifted. The two-metre social distancing rule, in effect since March 13, will also be somewhat relaxed in public spaces. Only six people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Iceland since May 1, even as widespread testing continues.

Gathering ban loosened

Icelandic authorities instituted their first gathering ban due to COVID-19 on March 16, limiting gatherings to 100 people or less. At its most strict, the ban was tightened to groups over 20. As of today, groups of up to 200 may gather together.

Gyms and bars may reopen today as well, though they may only admit guests up to half the capacity stated on their operating licence. The same applies to swimming pools, which reopened one week ago to the delight of locals. Bars and clubs may not be open later than 11.00pm.

New definition of two-metre rule

Since March 13, Icelandic authorities have encouraged two-metre social distancing whenever possible, and that encouragement still stands. As of May 25, however, people may sit or stand close together, but venues must make it possible for patrons to maintain a two-metre distance from others if they so desire. Theatres and movie theatres must, therefore, offer “at least a few seats” that allow for this distance to be maintained, according to a memorandum from the Chief Epidemiologist. This also applies to public spaces such as shops, restaurants, swimming pools, gyms, health clinics, workplaces, public buses, and schools, all of which must endeavour to maintain the two-metre rule “when possible.”

Currently only three active COVID-19 cases

Since Iceland’s first case on February 28, 1,804 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Iceland. Of these, 115 were admitted to hospital, and 30 to intensive care. Eighteen required the assistance of a ventilator and in total ten have died. As of the time of writing, Iceland only has three active cases of COVID-19.