MAJOR tag manufacturer Leader Products wants the sheep sector to adopt the same electronic tag colour code system as operates in the cattle industry.
Currently, sheep producers buy a different colour tag for each year, while cattle producers use a white breeder tag for an animals born on their property and an orange post-breeder tag for others.
Leader Products director Bruce Dumbrell believes simplifying the multi-colored year-specific sheep tag system when a national EID system is implemented would avoid producers and tag manufacturers having specific colour tags left over each year, that have to be retained until the year for that colour tag comes around again.
State and federal agriculture and primary industries ministers are due to discuss progress on plans for a national sheep and goat electronic identification system at the next AMM meeting on 7 December. Cost sharing and tag costs are key issues in discussions being held between farmers, the supply chain and governments as they work toward a 1 January 2025 start date for a mandatory EID system for sheep and goats.
“Our idea is to have a coloured (EID) tag for the (sheep) breeder, which we would recommend say yellow and then anyone who wants to have a coloured tag for the year, just uses a secondary cheap visual tag,” Mr Dumbrell said.
Mr Dumbrell said if the sheep industry adopted a species colour tag, Leader Products would supply a micron tag or management for colour of year included in the cost. This already occurs with wool producers being supplied a round button tag — attached with electronic tags — to signify a specific fleece micron category.
A sheep EID tag of just one colour meant it would be applicable for use in any year, potentially minimizing producers’ overall tag wastage and costs, and eliminating situations where manufacturers are left with stocks of year-specific coloured tags, he said.
“If we don’t have to manufacture all the different colours, then we just have the one (coloured) sheep tag and you don’t have any left overs at the end of the year that have to sit around with the expensive transponders in them until that color comes up again.
“The more tags that we can have into the one colour and carry that stock, the better for everyone.”
Mr Dumbrell said in some years tag manufacturers might have hundreds of thousands of EID tags in a specific colour that have to be carried for years until they will be required under the current sheep system.
“If the tag transponder costs us about 80 cents and you have 100,000 left over, that’s $80,000 sitting there in stock until you can sell them again.”
Mr Dumbrell said excess tags can sometimes be sold overseas, but this is not ideal.
“If you restrict how many tags you make in a certain colour you could run out, whereas if it is one colour you don’t have any problem keeping them for next year.”
Taskforce advice to be considered on 7 December
Sheep and Goat Traceability Task Force chair Ron Cullen said the task force has provided advice to officials in relation to the agriculture ministers’ September 2022 agreement to work toward national implementation of individual eID for sheep and goats by 1 January 2025, including in relation to timelines.
“It is my understanding that SGTTF advice to officials is being relayed to all Agriculture Ministers for the upcoming meeting on 7 December 2022.
“I anticipate a communiqué will be released following the meeting,” he said.
“The preliminary work of the SGTTF was informed by a peak industry-government co-design initiative that was undertaken between August and November 2022.
“This work examined key implementation areas around governance, data, infrastructure and technology, cost implications, communication and engagement, and national timeframes,” Mr Cullen said.
“More broadly, this is a significant undertaking and is being progressed to give full effect to Agriculture Ministers’ request that this important reform is progressed in a joint way between industry and government.
“This cannot be done overnight and it will take time to appropriately work through the detail with a wide range of stakeholders,” he said.
“We are only at the start of the process.
“There has been significant consultation and engagement to date between industry and governments,” Mr Cullen said.
“There will be further consultation and engagement to come over the coming months into 2023 as this work progresses, including by states and territories with their stakeholders.
“The focus is on achieving harmonised outcomes and supporting implementation of these reforms in jurisdictions in a way that brings the best outcomes in the most practical way possible for stakeholders.”