AUSTRALIA’S Northern Territory – the jurisdiction with the smallest sheep flock and where sheep are supposedly prohibited – is planning, along with Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, to be the first to next implement a mandatory sheep and goat electronic identification system.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has published on the Sheep and Goat Traceability Taskforce’s website an updated summary of the plans and progress of every state and territory as part of the sheep and goat EID national implementation plan.
Despite the nation’s federal and state agriculture and primary industries minister agreeing on a harmonized implementation of the system, the SGTT document dated 6 April shows the Northern Territory is planning to have all its sheep EID tagged and movements recorded by 1 January 2025.
The document indicates Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory also are planning to have all sheep and farmed goats EID tagged, and all movements recorded on the National Livestock Identification System database, by 1 January 2025. Victoria mandated EID tagging of sheep and goats in 2017.
The proposed NT and WA completion dates are two years before Australia’s most populous sheep state – New South Wales – has scheduled that all managed farmed sheep and goats will be EID tagged before leaving a property on 1 January 2027.
The ABS data has not recorded any goats under ownership in the territory. And curiously, according to a nt.gov.au reference, sheep are prohibited animals in the NT due to the presence of blue tongue virus in the Top End and its potential impact on the livestock industry.
The NT Government website said written permission must be obtained from the chief inspector of livestock, and all other requirements must be met, before bringing sheep into the NT. There are also livestock movement rules for sheep being moved around, into, out of, and through the NT, the website said.
According to a Meat & Livestock analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data, the Northern Territory had just 100 sheep owned by one business in 2021, although this had increased to 181 sheep owned by four business in 2022, arguably the biggest percentage flock increase of any jurisdiction in that period. However, NT data indicates a larger sheep flock and goat herd in the territory than indicated by the ABS.
The Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade told Sheep Central that sheep are prohibited animals in the NT due to the presence of blue tongue virus in the Top End and its potential impact on the livestock industry. However, the NT does allow Damara sheep and some others may be permitted for slaughter, and therefore NT sheep numbers are very low, the department said. The department also forwarded regional NT data showing there were 2202 sheep in the various NT regions, and 4098 goats.
The department directed Sheep Central to the website – https://nt.gov.au/industry/agriculture/livestock/sheep-and-goats and to the Livestock Movement Statistics webpage – https://industry.nt.gov.au/economic-data-and-statistics/primary-industry/livestock-movement-statistics
The disparity in the other states’ progress to a mandatory sheep and goat EID system is reflected by South Australia, which is yet to confirm when all farmed goats and sheep will be EID tagged before leaving a property, or when abattoir, saleyard and property-to-property EID transfers would be recorded on the NLIS database.
Queensland has also not confirmed when it planned to have abattoir and saleyard EID stock movements updated to the NLIS database. The updated plan document indicates only ‘N/A’ on behalf of the Commonwealth for all plan timeline milestones.
A DAFF spokesperson said the Commonwealth understands that the Sheep and Goat Traceability Taskforce intends to update the implementation plan document regularly, to support work towards implementing individual electronic identification for sheep and goats.
“The SGTTF agreed to publish a National Implementation Plan, with information from its members on activities, at its March 2023 meeting.
“As it is on the SGTTF webpage, the plan is available to industry and all stakeholders, and SGTTF members may circulate (it) through their members and networks.”
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