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.