NSW Farmers set to debate new sheep traceability evidence

Terry Sim, June 11, 2021

NSW Farmers Sheepmeats Committee chair Jenny Bradley. Image – MLA.

NSW Farmers’ opposition to mandatory electronic sheep identification is set for review next month, following evidence the state’s current visual tag mob-based system might not be meeting national traceability performance standards.

NSW Farmers has representation on the Sheep Producers Australia Product Integrity Committee that has supported an overhaul of the National Livestock Identification System, including the costing of mandatory national electronic sheep and goat identification.

However, NSW Farmers Sheepmeats Committee chair Jenny Bradley said the state farming organisation opposed the introduction of the mandatory use of individual electronic identification in sheep and goats. She said the association supported voluntary EID for on-farm management and enhancement of the current mob-based system to improve accuracy.

Ms Bradley said NSW Farmers also supported continued research into alternative forms of livestock identification so long as it meets national traceability standards. However, in a seeming contradiction, the NSW sheep meat industry leader has refused to say whether NSW Farmers accepted the findings of a recent SAFEMEAT Traceability Evaluation involving sheep from New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.

The evaluation involving 2723 sheep from seven saleyard lines sent direct to slaughter found that only 70.08 percent of the sheep with visual tags could be traced to their vendor and Property Identification Code location within 30 days, while 99.64pc of animals with electronic tags were traceable within 30 days.

Victoria is the only state with mandatory electronic identification of sheep and goats. All other states, including NSW, rely on visual tag mob-based systems.

National Traceability Performance Standards state that for all Foot and Mouth Disease-susceptible livestock species, within 24 hours of a relevant Chief Veterinary Officer being notified, it must be possible to determine the location(s) where a specified animal was resident during the previous 30 days. FMD-susceptible species include cattle, sheep, goats, and domesticated buffalo, deer, pigs, camels and camelids.

SPA’s Product Integrity Committee has supported SAFEMEAT recommendations to the National Biosecurity Committee that proposed establishment of a regulatory or statutory entity responsible for managing Australian livestock traceability; investment into a database capable of handling all FMD susceptible livestock species, and; mandating individual digital/electronic identification of livestock within an equitable funding arrangement. The SAFEMEAT recommendations also proposed that a consultation Regulatory Impact Statement be conducted to assess the impact of the recommendations and provide a fully costed decision paper to AGMIN. The NBC has not supported the recommendations but is scheduled to report to Australia’s federal and state agriculture ministers  this year.

NSW Farmers to debate SAFEMEAT recommendations

Ms Bradley this week declined to say whether NSW Farmers supported the SAFEMEAT recommendations.

“Sheep and goat traceability and the SAFEMEAT recommendations will be debated at our upcoming annual conference in July with a range of motions being put forward by committees and branches.

“NSW Farmers are a member-driven organisation with a democratic and farmer-driven decision making processes,” she said.

Ms Bradley also declined to say whether NSW Farmers accepted the data and findings of the SAFEMEAT Traceability Evaluation. The Western Australian Pastoralists and Graziers Association and the Queensland AgForce representatives on the SPA Product Integrity Committee have questioned the evaluation’s findings.

“We received the CIE NLIS 2020 Update and NLIS (sheep & goats) Traceability Evaluation Report (Victoria).

“Relevant NSW Farmers member advisory committees have reviewed the contents of the reports as well as current association policies on the subject,” Ms Bradley said.

“NSW Farmers is engaging with industry participants across the supply chain in response to these reports.”

Ms Bradley said the outcomes of the traceability evaluation report will be debated at the NSW Farmers 2021 annual conference, scheduled for 13-15 July.

She said NSW Farmers continued to work with its members and external industry stakeholders to improve compliance, useability and ongoing accuracy of the National Livestock Identification System.


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  1. Peter Small, June 11, 2021

    Frankly our industry leaders are a disgrace. All of them. They all know the livestock traceability system is a sham. They go through the pretences of being concerned and pretending to want to improve the system; more meetings, few results.
    How much time do we have? How well are our borders protected against the introduction of exotic animal diseases?
    Our industry leaders are silent when our Federal Government spends millions locking up a family with small children on Christmas Island, but at the same time fail to prosecute the case for adequate funding for the Commonwealth quarantine services to protect our borders against the introduction of exotic diseases. And if we had an outbreak of an exotic disease tomorrow, how robust are our systems in managing and eradicating the disease. As good as COVID-19?
    We all know — but no-one acts — that with increasing numbers of feral animal roaming our bush, an outbreak of an exotic disease would be, well, what is the word to describe such an event?
    Our industry is incapable of obtaining anything like 100 percen6t compliance with NWD declarations on wool clips. We are incapable of agreeing on a national definition of mulseing. We are incapable of agreeing on one accredited national standard of certification of animal ethics including mulesing, as we did with wool measurement some 70 years ago).
    Our industry lacks leadership at every level and those who hold such positions should all be ashamed of their achievements from the proper identification and traceability of animals to the certification of wool, from the Federal Minister down.

    • Andrew Michael, June 12, 2021

      Your comments should be heard by many within our industry. Your sentences “We are incapable of agreeing on a national definition of mulesing. We are incapable of agreeing on one accredited national standard of certification of animal ethics including mulesing” are very true. I am always the eternal optimist. There are some recommendations on traceability, standards and auditing tabled to our industry bodies that would move our whole industries — both meat and wool — in a unified positive direction. I live in hope.

      • Peter Small, June 13, 2021

        Andrew, you are younger and better informed person than me and I would like to think your “hope” is well-founded. However, I despair when you hear reports attributed to the Woolmark Company in the Northern Hemisphere, that their number one market issue is mulesing. Yet AWI remains mute on the subject, as does the Minister for Agriculture, who has oversight of the matter. AWI is a statutory authority and the Minister is ultimately responsible. But it doesn’t end there. Masses of other problems will come from our incapacity to control our borders and prevent the introduction of illegal meat and plant products; right through to our capacity to manage the outbreak of an exotic disease if it were to happen.
        My generation has failed Australia. I hope the next generation understands how fragile the future might be if we don’t address these fundamental matters.

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