A GOAL to limit electronic sheep and goat ear tag costs to producers to around $1 is winning support nationally.
Peak New South Wales farmer body, NSW Farmers, this week said mandatory electronic identification tags for sheep should cost no more than $1 per tag, “setting a clear target for state and federal governments.”
Cost-sharing negotiations between the state and federal governments are continuing, but there was no specific new EID tag commitment in the recent Federal Budget and producers in some states are still unclear what costs they will have to meet in the proposed national sheep and goat EID rollout.
The NSW Farmers $1 tag price goal is supported in Queensland and South Australia, and Western Australia already has a short-term tag discount (75 cents) scheme in place that has limited producers’ costs to about $1-$1.50 a tag, depending on the supplier.
NSW Farmers yesterday said Australia’s agriculture ministers last year agreed to mandate the use of electronic identification under the national traceability system for sheep and goats. But almost 12 months later, farmers were still worried about how much the scheme might cost their businesses, and made it clear there must be financial support to implement traceability reform, the body said.
NSW Farmers president Xavier Martin said gave in-principle support for the national traceability scheme after it was mandated by the previous government, but he said there was a need to set a maximum cost amid growing angst from producers.
“Farmers are rightly becoming increasingly concerned about the costs associated with implementing eID for sheep and goats, following the previous government’s mandating of the traceability system last year,” Mr Martin said.
“Since the former government’s announcement of mandated electronic identification for sheep and goats in July 2022, we have been clear that there must be sufficient financial support made available for producers of these livestock.
“Our executive council has looked at what other state governments are providing their producers and calculated a maximum price of $1 per tag is reasonable for the NSW Government to support given biosecurity benefits everyone, not just producers,” he said.
NSW Farmers’ official policy of in-principle support for mandatory sheep and goat EID was conditional on several factors, including that tag costs were reduced to an economically affordable level, farmers and the supply chain were provided financial assistance to invest in technology and the transition was underpinned by an equitable funding arrangement across the supply chain.
Mr Martin said with state and federal governments mandating a more expensive system, there needed to be financial assistance on the table, and the $1 price tag was in line with other states.
“Farmers need support in reducing the cost of accredited EID National Livestock Identification System devices, including ear tags and similar identification technology, under this reform,” Mr Martin said.
“The last thing we want to see is a significant cost burden borne by producers who are now required to transition to using EID by government.
“NSW Farmers is determined to secure financial assistance for farmers and the supply chain to invest in technology; to retain tag free pathways, and ensure the system be developed in consultation with producers.”
South Australia supports a $1 tag
Livestock SA president Joe Keynes endorsed NSW Farmers on aiming for an EID tag price of $1 or less.
“We’ve discussed it and that’s the sort of number that we’ve got in our heads – that tags should not be any more than a $1.
“Livestock SA is having a state farming organisation hook-up … because I think what we need to do is for the SFOs to come to a standardised position so that we can actually go to our individual governments and the federal government with a common understanding,” he said.
The Federal Government made no new funding commitments specific to the proposed national EID rollout. Mr Keynes said the national leadership has not been as strong as expected, State Governments are still deciding on their funding commitments and he “did not have a read” on the state of state-federal cost-sharing negotiations.
“And when you don’t have a clear direction and decisions people that are going to be impacted by this draw conclusions that may not be accurate,” he said.
AgForce sheep and wool board chairman Stephen Tully said he could understand the NSW Farmers position, but the ability of State Government’s to subsidise tag costs is the issue.
He said the Queensland Government had a draft implementation plan, but AgForce would not endorse it until it saw what funding is available. He said the amount of money required for tags could be reduced by exemptions for older stock going direct to slaughter.
“The cost is too high so we need to be innovative on how we can bring this thing in.”
He said the original SAFEMEAT recommendations referred to an equitable cost-sharing arrangement.
“That’s what we all signed up for, it’s what every state agreed to, that has not happened.”
Mr Tully said AgForce supported NSW Farmers on tag cost and had also proposed a tag incentive scheme to Western Australia, with a tag subsidy of 80 cents, to promote the early tagging of lambs to help processors get their processes running and limit any demand rush on tags around 1 January 2025.
WAFarmers livestock council president Geoff Pearson said the 75 cent discount on EID tags in Western Australia had kept prices to producers to under $1 to up to $1.50 depending on suppliers. He agreed that keeping the tag price low would facilitate uptake in the national rollout.
“But provided that the technology is there and the tags work too, we don’t want a sub-standard product.
“We don’t want to skimp on technology, we don’t want to skimp on retention and we want to make they are efficient tags that help the traceability system,” he said.
Leader Products director Bruce Dumbrell said he believed the WA discount tag system, where tags are sold through the normal reseller network, would work in other states, if the State Governments are prepared to subsidise tag prices.
Given the price drops in the yards the tag might be worth more then the sheep soon. Stockies are already telling people to shoot more. Will be growers knocking male lambs on head this season? The $50 sheep from two years ago is not worth the freight.