Animal Id and Traceability

National sheep EID tag changes might need approvals

Terry Sim, December 12, 2022

A combination electronic and visual tag system suggested by tag manufacturers.

LEADING tag manufacturers are persisting with calls for a re-think of the electronic identification ear tagging of sheep and farmed goats in Australia as states move to mandate a national EID system.

But any changes to the current National Livestock Identification System EID system for sheep and goats may need industry approvals and lengthy retention trials.

Leader Products director Bruce Dumbrell and Datamars national sales manager Mark Peters believe simplifying the multi-colored year-specific sheep tag system when a national EID system is implemented could save manufacturers and producers money.

They believe have a set one-colour species EID tag for sheep and goats, and also using a cheaper visual year-specific colour tag, would potentially minimise producers’ overall tag wastage and costs by eliminating manufacturers having to retain stocks of year-specific coloured tags until that coloured tag could be used again.

No secondary tag approval sought – ISC

However, Integrity Systems chief executive officer Jane Weatherley said Victoria moved to mandatory EID in 2017 and has been using National Livestock Identification System-approved EID tags since then.

“A secondary disc has not been submitted for NLIS approval at this stage,” she said.

“As with all NLIS approved tags, new sheep EID tags or modifications to tags may be required to go through the standard NLIS retention trial process to gain approval.”

Ms Weatherley said the colour of sheep EID tags is stipulated in the NLIS Sheep and Goat Standards as set by industry and government and endorsed by SAFEMEAT.

“It will be determined by industry, government and tag manufacturers if this is an approach for the future.

“The procedure for implementing another tag to the system is found here”

Mr Peters said he had spoken to ISC, and the sheep and goat producer peak bodies about establishing a species colour tag for sheep and goats under a national EID system.

“I said if you don’t go with a species tag, what will happen this time of year is that manufacturers will not get caught with half a million electronic tags in one colour.

“I’ve been speaking to them about this for 4-6 months.”

He said there are a number of non-EID tag options to identify a specific year that would save producers and manufacturers money under a national EID system for sheep and goats.

“We’re not going to stock up with a heap of year-colour tags and then wait, because some will start to use it now so they can have tags for next year, some will still have red tags left over …. it just puts the integrity of the system at risk, I reckon.”

He said the manufacturers all sell a non-EID visual or management tag for around 30 cents. However, Mr Peters said attaching a separate even round coloured disc to an electronic would go against current NLIS tag protocols.

“If you change an NLIS tag in any way, we’ve got to do a three-year trial.”

But he said the advantage of a having a dual EID-visual tag system would be availability of a constant supply of EID tags in a species colour that the manufacturers can hold in stock and know they were not going to get caught with them for eight years.

“And that the producers can utilise all the tags that they have on hand as well the same as for cattle.”

Mr Peters said manufacturers would have to raise EID tag prices if they had to hold excess year/colour specific stock. He already had excess 2022 red EID tags and some 2021 yellow EID tags that were unsold in Victoria.

“It’s probably 0.7-0.9 cents/tag/month to hold that stock in the warehouse and if we’ve got to hold it for eight years…

“It’s also about the integrity of the system; having the tags there to keep the system running.”

One way of reducing the cost of EID tags

Mr Dumbrell said if the sheep industry adopted a species colour tag, his company would supply, with any electronic tag order, what he is calling a micron or management tag of a year-specific colour in the cost.

“So for the year if they want 500 EID tags in whatever colour they decide as a species tag, they order that and we send them the same number of micron or multi-tags in the colour of the year.”

Mr Dumbrell said the tag manufacturers have been asked how they might help a national EID tag system be more attractive and less costly for producers.

“This is one way of reducing our costs and the price of the EID tags.

“We already allow for wastage (under the current system) and price accordingly,” he said.

“But if they want to reduce the costs, this is one very easy avenue to do that.”

Mr Dumbrell said every year in Victoria, tag manufacturers had to hold over unsold stocks of colour-specific sheep and goat EID tags. If the current year-specific EID colour tag system was retained, the cost of holding over excess EID tags would have to be passed on, he said.

“They just build up; we would probably have half a million (EID) tags there of previous year’s colours with transponders in this that we will have to hold or try to sell in New Zealand.

“It’s just a cost that we would do without, if they had a national one colour species tag as they do with cattle,” he said.

“The farmers themselves can save money because they won’t have left over year-specific coloured electronic tags if they order too many.

“All we are trying to do is save people money and make it more attractive to have a national system.”

Mr Dumbrell said tag manufacturers approved to market EID tags under the State Government ordering system make a greater margin from selling visual sheep tags than from their electronic counterparts.


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  1. James Peddie, December 13, 2022

    I can’t believe these companies who are going to get a whole new windfall market of 20-odd million tags and they are wanting to up sell some plastic discs — trying to make their job easier at the livestock producers expense. I think I’ll give Shearwell a call.

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