NEW South Wales’ State Government and its farmers have agreed all sheep and farmed goats born after 1 January 2025 will require an electronic tag before leaving a property, as processors call for visual National Livestock Identification System tags to to be phased out after that date.
From 1 January 2027, all farmed sheep and goats in NSW will require an EID tag, NSW Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders announced at the Dubbo saleyards today.
From 30 June 2024, meat processors will be required to start scanning all farmed sheep and goats and from 1 January 2025, scanning at saleyards will commence.
The announcement coincides with the Australian Meat Industry Council’s statement this morning that nationally from 1 January 2025 all newborn lambs and untagged sheep must be tagged with an EID tag when next transferred and from 2027 all sheep must be EID tagged.
Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said processors will accept sheep that have been tagged with a visual NLIS tag before 1 January 2025 and transferred up until 1 January 2027, but AMIC does not want any non-EID tag to be National Livestock Identification System accredited after 1 January 2025, to quicken the transition to full EID use nationally, consistent with its ‘no gaps’ policy.
“That allows use to get these things (visual NLIS tags) out of circulation, just like with old National Vendor Declarations.
“We need the weaning to occur, not from 1 January 2027, but from 1 January 2025,” he said.
Other states have yet to outline their EID timeline positions, despite the Australian Agriculture Ministers’ commitment for national harmonisation, but the simultaneous announcements of the NSW Government and AMIC have effectively put other states on notice.
Mr Saunders said the NSW plan has been developed hand-in-hand with industry, ensuring a timeline that works for each sector.
“Biosecurity is a top priority for the NSW Government, and a mandatory electronic identification system for sheep and goats will be a critical part of delivering the animal traceability we need to respond quickly and effectively if we ever see an incursion of an emergency animal disease,” he said.
“This timeline works for our state’s producers, feedlotters, agents, saleyards and processors, which is crucial given the important role they will each play in the successful roll out.
“The open and honest feedback I’ve received from producers across NSW is that while they understand the need for traceability, there has been a concern about having to deal with new tags in too short a timeframe,” Mr Saunders said.
“I’ve heard that message loud and clear, and my focus will continue to be on getting this right for everyone involved.
“That also includes a different pathway for wild-harvested rangeland goats, separate to managed and farmed goats, which is both achievable and considers the needs of the industry.”
Mr Saunders said other issues to be sorted included funding, infrastructure needs, a national tag tender and upgrading of the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database. He said he had called on the Federal Labor Government to match the funding the state was contributing.
Fletcher International Exports Roger Fletcher said he was “pretty happy with where we’ve ended up here.”
“At the end of the day, everyone involved in the sheep and goat industries has a role to play in this, and I’ll be doing my bit.”
AMIC seeks withdrawal of visual tag NLIUS accreditation
AMIC today encouraged all states to adopt EID as quickly as possible, with mandatory tagging of all lambs born after 1 January 2025 a minimum requirement. During the adjustment period, AMIC will support states that may choose to phase-in EID for sheep born before 1 January 2025.
Mr Hutchinson said the council will work constructively with and accept states that choose to phase in EID.
“But we will advocate strongly that whatever is proposed, is harmonised as much as possible across jurisdictions.
“If we don’t get harmonisation, we’ll work with our members to navigate added complexity as best we can, but we want to avoid that situation at all costs.”
To enforce the EID tagging of all sheep transferred on or after 1 January 2025, AMIC has recommended National Livestock Identification System-approved visual tags be withdrawn from sale and only EID tags be available on the market after that date.
“We believe this position is the right compromise to minimise double tagging of sheep and managed goats, while also fast-tracking EID coverage to put Australia in the best position possible to respond to an animal disease outbreak,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“Removing NLIS-approved visual tags from the market from 1 January 2025 will ensue that stakeholders don’t inadvertently use tags that will soon be redundant and get as many EIDs in circulation as quickly as possible.
This is just like industry removing old NVDs from circulation,” he said.
Mr Hutchinson said AMIC will continue to advocate for national harmonisation of EID via the national Sheep & Goat Traceability Task Force and will also engage state regulators to push our position.
“We cannot end up with a multi-speed transition to eID, beyond what we already have with Victoria leading the shift across.
“Industry and regulators must not accept an outcome where we have further variation across state borders in how we move to EID tagging,” he said.
“Having consistent sheep and goat traceability requirements across state and territory borders will reduce uncertainty and disruption to commercial activity.
“Harmonisation will minimise the complexity for businesses operating and transacting across state borders and enable clear and consistent communication of changes to stakeholders along the supply chain,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“A harmonised transition to EID will allow Australia to present a united and straight-forward message of changes to trading partners.
“If we have an outcome where processors are receiving stock from multiple states, which are moving to sheep and managed goat eID at different rates, the process of verifying whether each animal meets the regulatory requirements will become significantly harder,” he said.
“If requirements to sell sheep and goats across state borders differ, communicating changes to a wide producer base making such transactions will be extremely difficult.
“Friction at state borders will stymie the free movement of stock and may distort markets.”
NSW Farmers welcomes Government announcement
NSW Farmers today welcomed Mr Saunders’ announcement that all sheep and farmed goats born after January 1, 2025 would require an electronic tag before leaving a property, and from January 1, 2027 all farmed sheep and goats would require an EID tag.
NSW Farmers president Xavier Martin said the association had heard from some farmers about issues around timeframes and harvested rangeland goats and producers need time to implement EID properly.
“Farmers shouldn’t have to put tags in ears until they can be scanned at the saleyard and the processor, and this implementation plan will ensure the supply chain is ready to accept animals with EID devices.
“It’s important that any reforms are manageable and able to be rolled out practically, and that’s the approach we’re seeing from the NSW Government.”
Mr Martin said that while the timeline answered some important questions, it was important to ensure costs were managed – especially for tags – so that producers did not end up paying for this reform.
“There’s no point setting arbitrary timelines that can’t be met, the transition to electronic tags must be done simply and efficiently to avoid potential problems.
“It looks like the Minister wants to set us up for success here in NSW, and we’ll continue to work through the NSW Sheep and Goat Traceability Reference Group to make sure we plan around potential obstacles,” he said.
“At the end of the day we want an affordable system that works for everyone.”
Click here to read the full NSW Government statement.
Click here to read the AMIC statement.
Click here to read the NSW Farmers release.