Animal Id and Traceability

Red meat sectors must meet livestock traceability standards

Sheep Central, July 7, 2021

Cattle Council of Australia president Markus Rathsmann

AUSTRALIA’S beef industry is potentially compromised by other red meat industries unable to meet national traceability performance standards, according to Cattle Council of Australia president Markus Rathsmann.

Following Sheep Central coverage of livestock traceability reform proposals that include moving to mandatory national sheep electronic identification, Mr Rathsmann has written an opinion piece highlighting the cattle sector’s stance.

Sheep Central recently disclosed that a traceability evaluation held from March-July 2020 found that visual NLIS sheep tags are performing below the National Traceability Performance Standards, with 70.08pc traceability in 30 days, versus 99.64pc for sheep with EID tags.

The traceability evaluation involved sheep from saleyard lines sourced in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia and sent direct to slaughter. It also included sheep that originated in Western Australia and Tasmania. Victoria is the only state that mandates EID tags for sheep and goats, whereas cattle EID is mandated nationally.

The evaluation informed Sheep Producers Australia’s Product Integrity Committee support for five SAFEMEAT traceability reform recommendations, comprising reform options to enhance biosecurity and traceability for livestock industries, state jurisdictions and the Commonwealth Government. However, there has been criticism from Western Australian, New South Wales and Queensland sheep producers of the evaluation informing the reform process, and to the prospect of a mandatory sheep EID traceability system.

The SAFEMEAT recommendations include:

– the 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,

– mandating individual digital/electronic identification of livestock,

– creating an equitable funding arrangement for both the establishment and ongoing maintenance of the system and,

– that a consultation Regulatory Impact Statement be conducted to fully assess the impact of these recommendations to provide a fully costed decision paper to AGMIN.

Mr Rathsmann makes the case that the cattle industry more than any other is potentially compromised by other red meat industries being unable to meet these standards.

“While some states have good systems in place, a disease incursion will not stop at the border.

“Importing countries have no interest in individual state systems because they trade with Australia as a single nation, therefore we must act as a single nation.”

Mr Rathsmann told Sheep Central it is critical that the whole red meat sector has a traceability system that meets national performance standards, as this will help ensure ongoing access to vital overseas markets.

“While there may be challenges to a national traceability system for the red meat sector, it is highly likely that doing nothing will ultimately lead to significant premium losses in our key export markets which will hurt all red meat producers,” he said.

“Cattle Council’s policy is that all red meat species must meet the National Livestock Traceability Performance Standards.

“Electronic ear tags (EIDs) are one technology that may assist the industry in meeting these standards,” he said.

“CCA supports in-principle, the traceability reform recommendations submitted to the National Biosecurity Committee.”

Mr Rathsmann said the National Biosecurity Committee, government and Animal Health Australia are developing options to implement any new measures.

Traceability reform — CCA president Markus Rathsmann

A robust traceability system for the red meat and livestock industry is crucial to secure our ongoing profitability and wellbeing. Recent comments about traceability have done little to better inform producers or the red meat supply chain on proposed SAFEMEAT reforms for improving traceability across all red meat species.

SAFEMEAT is the partnership that secures our supply chain. It brings together producers, processors and government to make sure Australian red meat has the highest safety and hygiene standards from the producer to the consumer.

This partnership keeps us all on the cutting edge of food safety with research and development, communication linkages, monitoring, standard reviews and examines emerging issues that could have an impact on the industry in the future.

Every part of the red meat supply chain is represented on SAFEMEAT, from cattle, sheep and goat producers, lot feeders and livestock agents, through to saleyard operators, processors, exporters and State and Commonwealth Governments.

SAFEMEAT’s ‘Reform recommendations for Australia’s livestock traceability system’ report and its five key recommendations come from a long-term, comprehensive and collaborative process with producers and governments.

The recommendations are to enhance biosecurity and traceability for all parts of the red meat and livestock industry and are critical to keeping our overseas customers. We get a premium on the world market because we have systems to stop diseases from taking hold. SAFEMEAT is making sure we can keep doing this in a changing global environment. Australia has just struck an in-principle free trade agreement with the United Kingdom and our work on traceability was vital in securing access to this high-value market.

There is no doubt of the risks we face from incursions of diseases from overseas, this has been reflected in the fact the government is also investing an extra $400 million into biosecurity because they recognise the threats our animal industries face and the impact an outbreak would have on the national economy.

Like eNVDs, EID or electronic identification ear tags could help overcome our traceability challenges, but they will not do it alone. This technology can be used alongside proposed SAFEMEAT reforms as part of an overhaul of the National Livestock Identification System.

A robust traceability system where all red meat species meet the National Livestock Traceability Performance Standards (NLTPS) is vital to securing the market access the red meat and livestock industry needs to remain profitable. More than 70 percent of all red meat produced in Australia is exported and our reliance on international markets has never been greater. The scrutiny of our provenance claims in overseas markets is increasing every year and any time the government of an importing country faces political pressure this scrutiny only intensifies.

The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture estimates a 42pc chance of a significant exotic disease incursion in Australia in the next five years. This includes a 21pc risk of African Swine Fever, a 9pc risk of Foot and Mouth Disease and an 8pc risk of Lumpy Skin Disease.

If there is a disease incursion, an effective traceability system will be key to tracking and tracing potentially affected animals and stopping it from becoming an outbreak. This will need to be as quick and efficient as possible to avoid a catastrophic loss of trade.

In 2013, ABARES estimated a multi-state outbreak of FMD would cost our sector up to $51.8 billion, with around 99 per cent of these revenue losses through direct economic costs, with the remaining 1 percent being the cost of disease control. With today’s livestock prices the equivalent cost is likely to be well over $100 billion.

While some justifiably hold concerns about the costs of an effective traceability system, in particular of EIDs, this will be insignificant compared to the income losses or cost of a response, brought on by an inadequate traceability system.

While some states have good systems in place, a disease incursion will not stop at the border.  Importing countries have no interest in individual state systems because they trade with Australia as a single nation, therefore we must act as a single nation.

The five traceability reform recommendations from SAFEMEAT should be seen as a path to a nationally consistent traceability system to ensure all red meat species are operating at or above the NLTPS. The cattle industry more than any other is potentially compromised by other red meat industries unable to meet these standards.    

Non-compliance places the entire red meat and livestock industry at considerable risk which needs to be urgently addressed, given some red meat species have no traceability system in place at all.

Any recommendations put forward by SAFEMEAT will need industry endorsement and any of the traceability reform recommendations will only be implemented after a Regulatory Impact Statement is conducted where the impacts on industry will be assessed.

The industry needs to get behind any efforts to improve traceability and compliance because if one species loses a market, the whole red meat industry loses that market.

Through SAFEMEAT, CCA has given in principle agreement to:

 A national statutory body or regulatory authority be established and made responsible for managing Australia’s livestock traceability system, including:

o setting standards and requirements

o coordinating national compliance and enforcement

o education and extension.

 Investment into a traceability and data management system that will have the capability to handle all livestock species.

 Nationally mandated digital and electronic identification of all livestock species be phased in, beginning in 2021 and be completed no later than 2025.

 The cost of establishing these recommendations be shared between all levels of government and industry and that a long-term sustainable funding mechanism be established to ensure the ongoing maintenance of the system.

 A regulatory impact statement (RIS) being undertaken prior to any of the above being implemented.

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