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NSW farmers’ aim of 70 cent EID sheep tags is unrealistic

Terry Sim, July 15, 2022

Lambs with electronic tags in a Victorian saleyard.

NEW South Wales sheep producers are being unrealistic if they expected to have electronic ear tag prices capped at 70 cents without subsidisation, a major manufacturer said this week.

Next week, NSW Farmers will consider an urgency motion at their annual conference that could change the association’s policy on electronic identification of sheep if it is carried.

Current NSW Farmers policy supports voluntary sheep and goat EID for on-farm management, and enhancement of the current mob-based system to improve accuracy. The association led by president James Jackson has opposed the introduction of mandatory individual electronic identification for sheep and goats, despite evidence that only EID tag driven sheep tracking can meet National Traceability Performance Standards for biosecurity purposes.

However, the urgency motion stipulates that the price of EID tags be capped at 70 cents.

Australian sheep producers are mostly paying between $1.70-$1.80 for an unsubsidised electronic tag through resellers, apart from one company selling tags direct to producers at around $1.45. In Victoria, through a tender process with tags sold online through Agriculture Victoria, farmers pay about 90 cents a tag. The tag price to producers is subsidised by the state’s Sheep and Goat Compensation Fund monies collected in levies from farmers.

Leader Products director Bruce Dumbrell said to achieve an EID sheep tag price of 70 cents, NSW farmers would have to be subsidised.

“I would think if they made it a national scheme and made it compulsory for everyone to have electronic sheep tags then I would think it would eliminate the resellers and have the farmers either order them through a state department or directly from the manufacturer.

“But they wouldn’t get it to 70 cents, they would be getting it to around $1.10-$1.15 sort of thing (without subsidisation).

“They are being unrealistic, unless they think the tags are going to be subsidised,” he said.

“They are certainly not going to be getting them anywhere near under $1.10 unless they go straight to the farmer from us, something like that.

“There is no point suggesting a price cap of 70 cents and non-one can supply them at 70 cents,” Mr Dumbrell said.

“They (the NSW farmers) need to be realistic, otherwise they are saying: ‘No, we are not going ahead because it is impossible to get the tags at 70 cents – they are not going to get anything at 70 cents.”

Mr Dumbrell said freight and other manufacturing costs had risen and there was a global shortage of the electronic chips.

“Currently there are about 10-12 million electronic sheep tags being sold into Australia and if it goes national, my back of the coaster estimate would be they would include goats and probably a couple of other species which would take us to around 40 million units per year.”

A visual non-EID sheep tag is selling for about 35-40 cents at resellers without subsidy.

NSW Farmers motion is ‘great news’

Chair of Victoria’s Sheep and Goats Identification Advisory Committee Stuart McLean said the NSW Farmers urgency motion was great news and clear recognition for the need for national mandatory EID traceability for sheep.

However, he said unless EID sheep tag prices are supported by a subsidy, then a 70 cents price will be very hard to achieve.

“Tag prices have been a major barrier for adoption nationally for many years; however, if effective traceability is required in a major disease outbreak then the tag will be nothing compared to the cost to producers, industry and the national economy.”

Mr McLean said the sheep and goat EID system in Victoria has proven what is possible through a whole of industry adoption and independent review.

“A rigorous tendering process in Victoria for tag suppliers resulted in the best price outcomes for producers along with government and the Sheep and Goats Compensation Committee.

“A national mandatory EID traceability system needs to be in place now to help reduce and manage our risk and industry hardship — procrastination is not an option,” he said.

“The broader community negative impacts are enormous.”

Mr McLean said states outside Victoria had repeatedly declined to participate in a national tender system to provide cheaper EID sheep tags for their farmers.

NSW Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders declined to comment on the NSW Farmers motion or on whether the NSW State Government would be prepared to subsidise EID sheep/goat tags and equipment.

Sheep EID has improved tracebaility by 30pc

Victorian prime lamb and maternal seedstock producer Tim Leeming said the price of an EID tag, now around 90 cents in Victoria, had given the industry lifetime biosecurity, traceability and sheep management options.

Mr Leeming said he was disappointed with the NSW Farmers attitude on the issue, after Victoria, with mandatory sheep EID, had gone from a mid -60pc compliance on National Vendor Declarations and in matching PIC numbers with consignments, to now being in the mid-90pc traceability performance.

“We’ve actually improved our traceability by 30pc.”

Mr Leeming said it was “narrow-mindedness” for NSW sheep producers to allow the cost of an ear tag to get in the way of their decision to adopt mandatory EID.

“Why wouldn’t you, for the sake of 50 cents extra on what you are already paying on a visual tag, do that, in the face of impending disaster on our borders with Foot and Mouth Disease?

The full NSW Farmers motion reads:

To adequately protect Australian agriculture and the sheep industry from the threat of a serious biosecurity incursion, NSW Farmers supports:

The national adoption of EIDs in a manner that is both financially and practically implementable and ensures the long-term sustainability and profitability of our valuable export markets;

The use of EIDs to proactively minimise the impacts of any possible disease outbreak;

Capping the price of EIDs at 70c;

Cost recovery for the implementation of on-farm technology to utilise EID’s; and

A staged rollout of EIDs over a five (5) year period

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  1. Ken Jacobs, July 15, 2022
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