QUEENSLAND’S Government has asked to be an observer to Victoria’s transition to a mandatory electronic identification tagging system for sheep and goats.
A Biosecurity Queensland spokesman has confirmed what Sheep Central believes is one of the first formal interstate commitments of interest in Victoria’s controversial decision to implement mandatory EID for sheep and goats.
The number of Queensland observers to be sent to Victoria has not been decided, but the spokesman said the state’s government is interested in the approach Victoria has applied to support the EID implementation process.
Although an announcement on an EID transition package by Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford was postponed this month, all sheep and goats born in the state after January 1, 2017 must have an electronic identification tag before being dispatched to a saleyard, abattoir or another property.
After July 1, 2017, all saleyards, abattoirs and knackeries in Victoria will be required to scan electronic tags of sheep and goats and upload the information to the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database. Click here to get Sheep Central story links sent to your email inbox.
Queensland supportive of “any” system that delivers
The Biosecurity Queensland spokesman said the state’s government is supportive of any system that delivers the nationally agreed National Livestock Traceability Performance Standards. For sheep and goats, this includes the 98 percent short term and 95pc long term traceability performance standards.
“The Queensland Government views the NLIS as a comprehensive system that must consider the NLIS performance of all species involved in the system.”
When asked if the Queensland Government was reconsidering its position on the current mob-based NLIS system for identifying sheep and goats, the spokesman said it continued to evaluate implementation of an effective identification system for sheep and goats that meets NLTP standards.
“The government will continue to engage with the relevant industries on traceability for sheep and goats considering the Victorian Government announcement and the Sheepcatcher II results when announced.
“The Queensland Government’s focus is on working with industry to implement the best outcome for the state in relation to an effective identification system for sheep and goats.”
The Biosecurity Queensland spokesman said a robust traceability system that delivers to NLTP standards is a critical element of an effective system to accurately and quickly trace livestock in the event of a biosecurity incident, such as a disease incursion or food safety issue.
Accurate and timely traceability is key tool
Although Queensland has the smallest sheep flock (2.14 million) and 92 percent of its 4.9 million cattle are in the Bluetongue Zone. The recent Victorian Auditor-General’s report found the absence of an effective sheep and goat traceability system also posed risks for the cattle industry, due to the risk of some diseases that can be transmitted between sheep and cattle, such as bluetongue and Foot and Mouth Disease.
When asked if Queensland authorities believe the state’s cattle herd is under an increased biosecurity risk from the current mob-based ID system for sheep, the spokesman said accurate and timely traceability is a key tool for managing biosecurity risks.
“The Queensland Government has in place traceability systems to support effective and efficient traceability and will continue to work with industry groups to ensure that biosecurity risks are managed appropriately.”
Agforce not surprised at Queensland’s observer request
Agforce sheep and wool policy director Michael Allpass said it did not surprise him that the Queensland Government had asked to be an observer to the Victorian EID transition program.
“Everyone wants to see how Victoria plan to implement this, so to sit on any committee table as an observer to understand how they are going to go about it makes perfect sense to me.”
Mr Allpass said the Agforce Sheep and Wool Board was aware of the need to “start this conversation” about sheep and goat identification nationally.
“It has got to be a national and a harmonised approach; it can’t be every state doing their own thing, because it is just never going to work appropriately and effectively if that is the case.”
Mr Allpass said Agforce was disappointed with the rashness of the Victorian decision; to get the EID program up and running in five months by January 2017.
“This is a ridiculous kind of rush into a system that definitely needs to be discussed thoroughly, technology needs to be assessed and re-assessed to make sure it works properly.
“The NLIS database system needs to be assessed to make sure it works effectively for the reason of good traceability for biosecurity, but that’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.
“We want everyone to slow down and make sure we get this right the first time with the least amount of confusion to the producers as possible.”
Mandatory sheep EID needs a business plan
Mr Allpass said the Agforce Sheep and Wool Board supported voluntary use of electronic tagging of sheep and goats for management purposes.
“At the moment we do not support the mandatory use of EID until these conversations are had and a business plan is determined, in the best interests of a national approach.
“We can’t have Victoria doing one thing and New South Wales doing something completely different.”
Mr Allpass said the current mob-based visual tag system for sheep and goats is appropriate.
“But it can always be improved upon – electronic tagging is one way to do that, but let’s not make the same mistakes that were made in the past.
“Let’s make sure that the tags work well, we’ve got good retention rates, we’ve got good access to the database and anything you put into the database meets the required compliance,” he said.
“They are all the things that we want to look at before making any decision to implement electronic tagging.”