Animal Id and Traceability

National sheep electronic identification system costing call

Sheep Central, April 13, 2021

Sheep Producers Australia CEO Stephen Crisp

SHEEP Producers Australia is seeking a full assessment and costing of a national electronic identification system for sheep and goats by the Federal Government.

Victoria is currently the only state with a mandatory EID system for sheep and goats, while electronic ID of cattle has been implemented nationally.

The peak sheep meat body today said it strongly recommended that a consultation Regulatory Impact Statement process be conducted to fully assess the impact and cost of five key reforms to the National Livestock Identification System.

SPA said evidence in the NLIS (Sheep & Goats) Traceability Evaluation report has galvanised its support of five reform recommendations presented by SAFEMEAT to the National Biosecurity Committee (NBC) in March 2020.

These recommendations include;

  1. the establishment of a regulatory or statutory entity responsible for managing Australian livestock traceability,
  2. investment into a database capable of handling all FMD susceptible livestock species,
  3. mandating individual digital/electronic identification of livestock,
  4. creating an equitable funding arrangement for both the establishment and ongoing maintenance of the system and,
  5. that a consultation Regulatory Impact Statement be conducted to fully assess the impact of these recommendations to provide a fully costed decision paper to AGMIN.

SPA strongly supports recommendation 5 as an appropriate next step, and is looking forward to the assessment of the regulatory impact of the recommendations to ensure the costs are fully understood.

SPA chief executive officer Stephen Crisp would not detail what evidence in the traceability evaluation report had galvanised its support of the five recommendations, but the report is believed to compare the traceability performance of Victoria’s EID system for sheep and goats with that of mob-based systems nationally.

“There is absolutely no doubt that a national (electronic identification) system would work much better between the states than having a different system in each state, it’s just inefficient.

“Every state would have to come on board with this to become a part of a national system, but we are just saying it’s so much more efficient if we do that,” Mr Crisp said.

SPA said it was agreed that there needed to be continual improvement in Australia’s traceability systems for sheep.

“We would like to have a national traceability system, but we have to know what the costs will be to producers so that we can assess the cost benefits of our options.

“The SAFEMEAT National Biosecurity Committee has been discussing this for a while, but we need to come to a conclusion on this and this is the information that the industry needs to progress on the best option,” he said.

“As part of our continuous improvement we would like to go to the best system that we can afford.”

Mr Crisp said it would be a Federal Government decision on whether a consultation Regulatory Impact Statement process was undertaken.

“We’ve informed all the ministers, federal and state, of what we want to see completed, so that everyone knows where we are at on it,” he said.

Biosecurity threats mean reform is needed

Mr Crisp said Sheep Producers Australia recognises that Australia’s multi-billion dollar red meat and livestock industries do have biosecurity threats from diseases such as Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD).

“FMD has the potential to decimate the Australian livestock sector and result in significant market access disruption if allowed to enter and spread.”

SPA said ongoing detections at Australia’s borders and recent reports demonstrate that these threats cannot be ignored.

“SPA takes these threats extremely seriously and has been deliberately and proactively working on the continual improvement of Australia’s livestock traceability capability.

“Since 2018, SPA has been working with SAFEMEAT and its members on the development of reform recommendations to the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS),” he said.

“As part of that work SPA has accepted the findings of key sheep industry reports as compelling evidence to support national traceability reform for the red meat sector.

“SPA expects that this work will determine the most appropriate method for implementing the recommendations in consultation with the livestock sector more broadly,” Mr Crisp said.

“We acknowledge the potential cost and logistical challenges associated with the implementation of the proposed reform options for the sheep industry and therefore fully support an extensive and public consultation process.

“Government must examine what investment is required to facilitate a systemic improvement in biosecurity for the livestock sector.”


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  1. Craig Mitchell, April 15, 2021

    Solving traceability problems will not reduce the biosecurity risk posed by Foot and Mouth Disease. Wild pigs are by far the greatest problem.
    Here is a link to the draft 2021-30 National Feral Pig Action Plan.

    On page 14 there are some maps showing the spread of wild pigs over New South Wales and Queensland and then the bigger picture of their distribution over the whole of Australia.
    As you will see, there is an unbroken line of exotic disease (FMD) carriers from Melbourne to the tip of Cape York.

  2. Bruce Dumbrell, April 15, 2021

    I would have thought that Victoria would know the cost of infrastructure to build readers etc. These are now established costs and, as per the National Livestock Identification System for cattle, there are cost savings in the management efficiencies. I doubt cattle saleyards could run without having the electronic NLIS system behind them for invoicing and transfers etc. Some of the costs of doing business are being reduced by the automation of the system.
    The cost of sheep tags without the government subsidy is around $1.30 per head. I’m not sure how difficult it would be to do a costing on that basis. Visual tags are around 40 cents per head for sheep and goats.
    I doubt Western Australia will be a party to a national system any time soon. They have still not adopted PIC numbers on tags and are still using brands.
    So, on a per head basis, the cost would be an extra $1 per head, but against that there could be some on-farm efficiencies for fleece testing, weight gains and recording accurate information.

    • Steve McGuire, April 17, 2021

      The eastern states have failed to adopt the 30-plus year-old Western Australian mandatory transaction tag system. It has been proven to greatly increase traceability at little cost. It also addresses some of the problems in the system that RFID tags don’t.
      Tags aren’t the only cost; managing a database that has every sheep in Australia on it so that you capture the traceability benefits will be expensive. Who is paying for that?
      The WA cattle industry pays for someone to manage their database to fill in the gaps. How many would you need to manage all of Australia’s sheep and goats?

    • Digby Corker, April 16, 2021

      Western Australian producers can use PIC or brand on tags, either way makes absolutely no difference to traceability. Western Australia was the only state to successfully trace its sheep in a real live test of the system – using its mob-based visual tag identification system. So don’t be surprised if there is no appetite to adopt a system designed by states that failed to successfully trace their sheep.

    • Brad Bellinger, April 15, 2021

      Of course sale yards would be able to do invoicing without RFID (electronic tags). They did it for 200 years before the tag manufacturers entered the scene.
      Cattle RFID is the biggest white elephant ever inflicted upon the cattle industry and it doesn’t work. All it has achieved is tens of millions of bits of plastic and copper wire littering Australia’s grazing country at a $1.7 billion cost to cattle producers. We need to keep the sheep RFID insanity isolated to Victoria.

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